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Trigon Opens Bid Battle for Cerulean Against WellPoint

Managed care outfit WellPoint Health Networks' (WLP) long-in-the-waiting-room acquisition of Cerulean Cos. has again been delayed, this time by a $675 million all-cash competing offer from Trigon Healthcare (TGH - Get Report).

Although Cerulean, parent of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, had agreed to the WellPoint deal in July 1998, shareholder suits blocked it. WellPoint last month agreed to pay $5 million to settle them.

WellPoint boosted its bid to $680 million after Cerulean notified it last week of Trigon's offer, the company said in a Sunday night statement. Cerulean let it be known, the statement added, that the offer wasn't good enough because it "preserves WellPoint's previously negotiated right to match any competing proposal."

WellPoint, a $6.3 billion company that plans to make Cerulean a wholly owned subsidiary, said it expects to offer a new response within a few days.

WellPoint's stock closed Friday at $100.75. It lost ground last week after Prudential Securities downgraded a handful of HMO stocks.

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