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Aetna may acquire Humana or Cigna

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Aetna Inc. (NYSE:AET) may be targeting a major health insurer as an acquisition prospect.

Wall Street analysts say the most likely candidate is Humana Inc. (NYSE:HUM), which is a leading player in the Medicare market. Aetna is also a major player in that market, but not as strong.

Humana shares soared Wednesday. The price of Cigna Corp. (NYSE:CI) shares also soared, suggesting that traders believe Aetna may have its eye on that provider.

The tipoff that a deal might be in the works came Monday, at a meeting at Aetna’s headquarters, according to Katie Bo Williams, a reporter at Healthcare Dive, a health care news site.

Leerink Partners hosted an investor meeting Monday at Aetna’s headquarters. At the meeting, Leerink analyst Ana Gupte said consolidation seemed likely, the Williams writes.

“Gupte reported that Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini’s asserted that ‘…government business is the focus for inorganic growth, while compatible cultures for post-merger synergies were viewed as the driver in all transactions, with cheap debt making either Aetna-Humana and Aetna-Cigna meaningfully accretive possibilities and imminent,’” Williams writes.

See also: Medicare plan business grows again