(Bloomberg) — A Justice Department lawyer told the judge in the antitrust case over Anthem’s $48 billion takeover of Cigna Corp. that the government was willing to hear settlement offers from the companies.
Cigna’s shares rose 4.3 percent to $132.10 and Anthem, which is based in Indianapolis, was up 1.8 percent to $130.45 at 12:05 p.m. in New York.
“We’re always willing to hear any proposals the defendants have,” Jon Jacobs, a lawyer for the Justice Department, said at a hearing on Friday in Washington. It’s common for the government to express a willingness to entertain settlement offers, but Jacobs’s remarks are no guarantee that an agreement can be reached.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington said that the trial would probably begin in mid-to late November. She also said that she couldn’t rule on the case before the end of the year.
The companies have until April 30 to complete the deal. A lawyer for Cigna, which is based in Bloomfield, Connecticut, told the judge that he “can’t say” whether Cigna would terminate the merger if it doesn’t close by then but that the health insurer is committed to defending the combination in court.
In a note to investors, analyst Ana Gupte of Leerink Partners said of the Justice Department’s offer to hear settlement proposals, “This is clearly a surprise.” Gupte added that Leerink, and probably the rest of Wall Street, have viewed the probability of a successful trial or settlement at 25 percent or lower.