SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Aetna Inc AET.N Chief Executive Mark Bertolini said on Tuesday that he still expects the company's $37 billion acquisition of rival Humana Inc HUM.N to close this year.
The deal is being reviewed by the U.S. Department of Justice, which has been seeking documents about Aetna's and Humana's business as it assesses how the deal, and a pending $47 billion combination of Anthem Inc ANTM.N and Cigna Corp CI.N, could affect consumers.
“So far, we have nothing to believe it will be any slower than that, or any faster,” Bertolini said in an interview at the JP Morgan Healthcare conference.
The two proposed mergers would be an unprecedented consolidation of the U.S. health insurance industry, and critics have warned it could lead to higher prices for consumers. Insurers say the combinations will give them greater leverage to control rising healthcare costs.
Aetna said it expects the regulators to wrap up their document requests in the next month, and then the company will move onto discussions with them and consider any divestitures that might be needed.
Aetna and Humana sell health plans for individuals as well as Medicare Advantage plans for seniors. Humana’s operations does not overlap with Aetna’s large corporate business.
U.S. antitrust regulators have recently blocked large mergers in a variety of industries, raising questions among investors about whether Aetna’s and Anthem’s acquisitions will close. Reuters reported on Monday that about 15 state attorneys general have joined the Justice Department’s probe into the insurance mergers, potentially complicating what is already expected to be a tough and lengthy review.
The government’s joint review of both deals has probably increased the breadth and volume of information that Aetna has supplied, Bertolini said.
“If we were to look at 2016 we have two things to do. Deliver our results, and close our deal,” he said.
Reporting by Caroline Humer; Editing by Michele Gershberg and Steve Orlofsky
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