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.