The Post said it had learned that Anthem “appears ready to walk away from the deal,” though the company says it is not currently weighing a termination of the merger.
Anthem CFO John Gallina told a group of 20 analysts late last week that the company is considering “remediation plans,” such as purchasing assets from Aetna (AET) as it mergers with rival Humana (HUM). Two sources from the meeting confirmed the comments, said the Post.
U.S. antitrust regulators have been skeptical of the deal and are concerned that the acquisition would lead to too much industry consolidation, resulting in less competition and higher premium prices for customers. The deal would combine the No. 2 and No. 4 health insurers in the U.S., creating a behemoth with 53 million customers in commercial, government, consumer, and other kinds of health insurance plans.
Jill Becher, staff vice president of communications at Anthem, told Fortune that there was no truth to the report. Cigna declined to comment.
“The completion of the Cigna acquisition is the highest priority for Anthem,” said Becher in a statement. “Anthem continues to be in ongoing dialogue with the Department of Justice and state regulators regarding the compelling combination of our two companies to increase consumer access to high quality, affordable health care.”
Wall Street has also soured to the deal after fears that Justice Department could likely sue next month to block the mega-merger. Cigna (CI) shares are trading nearly 35% below Anthem’s original $188 per share offer of cash and stock, signaling that investors think there’s a narrowing chance that the deal will go through. In late May, Leerink Partners analyst Ana Gupte reduced its chance of closing to 50% from a previous view of 70%.
Even if the Justice Department decides to sue, Anthem (ANTM) still has time to fight the move by regulators since its agreement runs through January 2017. If the deal falls through, Anthem is on the hook for a $1.85 billion breakup fee.