Signage is displayed outside the Humana Inc. office building in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S., on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016. The Justice Department sued in July to block the union of Aetna Inc. and Humana Inc., saying they would reduce the number of large, national health care insurance providers, leading to increased costs for their clients. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg (Photo: Luke Sharrett/BB)

Drugstore chain Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. and insurer Humana Inc. are in early talks about taking equity stakes in each other, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Shares of the companies pared earlier losses after the report late Tuesday. Humana finished the day down 1%, after earlier falling as much as 3.5%. Walgreens closed down 2.6, after earlier losing as much as 4.4%.

(Related: Walgreens CEO Says His Company Will Survive the Amazon Threat)

 

The companies have held discussions about a variety of joint ventures, the Journal reported, including expanding their partnership serving older people. The paper cited people familiar with the matter without identifying them.

Walgreens declined to comment. A representative for Humana didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Walgreens Chief Executive Officer Stefano Pessina has had a longstanding interest in expanding Walgreens’ business. In recent months the company has announced several partnerships including with grocer Kroger Co. and the medical-testing company Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings. Its rival CVS Health Corp. is merging with insurer Aetna Inc. in a tie-up meant to provide vertically integrated health care services.

“We should have bought an insurance company four years ago when our multiple was was higher than their multiple,” said during an interview at Bloomberg’s offices last month.

Walgreens currently owns 26% of drug distributor AmerisourceBergen Corp., and the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year that it had held talks to buy the portion that it doesn’t already own.

During the October interview, Pessina didn’t rule out this possibility of a deal between the two at the right price.

“It is something that could happen at a certain point, maybe yes, maybe no,” Pessina said at the time. There was no rush to do so, however, because “we control them strategically.”

AmerisourceBergen shares closed down 2.1%.

—With assistance from John Tozzi.

— Read A Walmart-Humana Deal Sounds Wild, But Would Make Senseon ThinkAdvisor.

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