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UnitedHealth Lines Up Financing

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A managed care giant has prepared for a potentially turbulent year by securing access to cash.

UnitedHealth Group Inc., Minnetonka, Minn., says it has set up a $7.5 billion credit revolving credit facility.

The co-syndication agents for the 364-day credit facility are units of JPMorgan Chase & Company, New York; Citigroup Inc., New York; and Bank of America Corp., Charlotte, N.C.

Units of those companies also are acting as joint lead arrangers and joint bookrunners for the deal, according to UnitedHealth.

A review team hired by the UnitedHealth board announced Sunday that UnitedHealth has had poor systems in place for managing stock options and may have backdated stock option grant dates.

Rating agencies have suggested that UnitedHealth may need extra cash to deal with fines and litigation related to the stock option program findings.

The new $7.5 billion credit facility “is intended to insure the company’s immediate and continued access to additional liquidity, if necessary, and to enhance the company’s position in any litigation that is commenced with respect to the company’s outstanding debt securities,” UnitedHealth says in an announcement of the facility agreement filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

UnitedHealth could use the facility to supply working capital or to repay loans, the company says.

“The company believes it is not in default under the indenture governing its outstanding debt securities and intends to defend itself vigorously,” UnitedHealth says.

A revolving credit facility is the equivalent of a big corporate credit card account.

UnitedHealth has not used any of its facility borrowing capacity, but, if it starts carrying a balance, the interest rate will be a variable rate linked to changes in the London Interbank Offered Rate, a key international interest rate benchmark, UnitedHealth says.

The credit facility agreement also provides a mechanism for tying the rate to the prime rate or the federal funds rate if using LIBOR as a benchmark proves to be impractical.