Tampa Bay Times
CVS in talks to buy insurer Aetna
The deal could be worth more than $60 billion based on Aetna’s market value.
The drugstore chain may try to prepare itself in case Amazon enters the pharmacy market.
CVS Health, the giant drugstore chain that also runs walkin clinics and a pharmacy benefit business, is in talks to buy Aetna, one of the nation’s largest health insurance companies, according to people briefed on the talks.
Negotiations between the two companies could still fall apart, these people say. But if consummated, the deal could be worth more than $60 billion based on Aetna’s current market value, which would make it one of the largest corporate acquisitions this year and one of the largest in the history of the health industry.
The proposed combination reflects the blurring of traditional boundaries in health care, as established companies seek to find their footing in a rapidly changing environment. Congress is deadlocked over the future of the Affordable Care Act, and employers and consumers are struggling to contain rising medical costs, particularly skyrocketing drug prices.
“I think this deal has been a long time coming,” said Adam J. Fein, president of Pembroke Consulting, a management advisory and business research company. “CVS has been positioning itself as a health care company and not a pharmacy for a long time.”
The negotiations are also taking place as the online retail giant Amazon encroaches on the turf of well-established players — and the pharmacy business could be next. In industries ranging from book sales to groceries to television programming, Amazon has displaced stalwarts that had enjoyed decades of limited competition and rarely interrupted growth.
The talks between CVS and Aetna appear to be in part an attempt to fend off a move by Amazon into the drug-selling business — or at least to insulate the companies in case Amazon does invade. Signs are emerging that Amazon has designs on the pharmacy industry, with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporting Thursday that Amazon had gained licenses in 12 states to become a wholesale prescription drug distributor.
A larger company — CVS and Aetna have combined annual revenues of about $240 billion — could enjoy greater leverage in negotiations with drug companies, helping it defend itself against newcomers like Amazon.
Representatives for CVS and Aetna declined to comment. News of the possible transaction, which was first reported by the