Walmart Seeks To Buy Humana: Good Idea? Walmart The Godsend?

Walmart is in negotiation with Humana. There is a range of options, including a direct buyout.

The Wall Street Journal reports Walmart in Early-Stage Acquisition Talks With Humana.

Walmart Inc. is in preliminary talks to buy insurer Humana Inc., according to people familiar with the matter, a deal that would mark a dramatic shift for the retail behemoth and the latest in a recent flurry of big deals in health-care services.

It isn’t clear what terms the companies may be discussing, and there is no guarantee they will strike a deal. If they do, the deal would be big: Humana currently has a market value of about $37 billion.

Should there be a deal—and should regulators and shareholders bless it—it would transform Walmart overnight into one of the nation’s largest health insurers. It would immerse the company in a complicated industry, one that continues to evolve eight years after the Affordable Care Act was enacted and as Washington remains deeply divided over health-care policy.

The talks come as health-service providers are rapidly pairing off and retailers—particularly pharmacy chains—are looking to diversify and bulk up in the face of the competitive threat from e-commerce Inc.

In December, CVS Health Corp. agreed to buy Humana rival Aetna a $69 billion deal aimed at allowing the drugstore-chain to capture more of what consumers spend on health care. In March, health insurer Cigna Corp. agreed to buy Express Scripts Holding Co. , the biggest administrator of prescription-drug benefits in the U.S., for $54 billion.

Walmart has a vast pharmacy business, with locations in most of its roughly 4,700 U.S. stores and in many of its Sam’s Club warehouse locations. Humana is a Medicare-focused insurer that could deepen Walmart’s relationship with a key demographic—seniors—at a time when the retailer is being threatened by Amazon on several fronts.

Humana, which had $53.8 billion in revenue last year, is the second-biggest provider of the private Medicare plans known as Medicare Advantage. Humana has about 17% of the Medicare Advantage market, according to a tally by analysts at Wells Fargo, with about 3.5 million participants. Medicare is viewed as a growth engine in the insurance industry, as the baby boomers age into the program.

Many of the biggest health insurers are pairing up with others outside their industry to create behemoths with a far larger role in the health-care sector after two attempted health-insurance mergers were blocked in early 2017 by courts on antitrust grounds: Aetna-Humana and Anthem Inc. -Cigna.

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Jason Stewart 3 years ago Member's comment

Interesting points Mish. It has also been assumed by many that this merger will be a boon for shareholders but will that really be the case? The regulatory framework for the health insurance industry has been tumultuous and can eat away at margins. Other costs are rising as well in this particular industry.