The Cigna Group headquarters in Bloomfield, Connecticut, on Oct. 27, 2023.

BlooJoe Buglewicz | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Shares of Cigna slid Wednesday after a report that the company is in talks with Humana about a merger between the two health-care giants.

A Cigna spokesperson did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on the report from The Wall Street Journal, which cited people familiar with the matter. A Humana spokesperson declined to comment.

The companies are discussing a stock-and-cash deal that could be finalized by the end of this year, the people told the Journal. 

A merger would be a mega deal. Cigna’s market value sat at roughly $80 billion on Wednesday and Humana’s was around $63 billion, making them two of the nation’s largest health insurers.

Shares of Cigna fell more than 5% Wednesday, while Humana’s stock was relatively flat.  

The rumored deal comes after reports earlier this month that Cigna was exploring a sale of its Medicare Advantage business, which manages government health insurance for people age 65 and older. A Cigna spokesperson at the time said the company does not comment on “rumors or speculation.” 

Some analysts have suggested that a potential combination with Humana could be a reason for Cigna to offload its Medicare Advantage business. Doing away with that business could potentially temper antitrust concerns for such a merger, Scott Fidel, health care stock analyst at Stephens, wrote in a note earlier this month, according to STAT News. 

“We would see this action being one component of a potential pursuit of Humana as an acquisition target, with the divestiture being a proactive move to reduce antitrust risk,” Fidel said.

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