Shares in health insurer



slipped Wednesday after its controlling shareholder priced a $320 million secondary offering.

WellChoice, the New York-based parent of Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield, said the New York Public Asset fund will sell 8 million shares to the public next Monday at $40 apiece. The offering will trim the fund's stake in the state's largest managed care company to 63.4%.

WellChoice came public in November 2002 at $25 a share. The fund, which was created by lawmakers to take the proceeds of Empire's conversion to for-profit status, owned 76% of WellChoice after the $400 million IPO. In May, WellChoice filed documents covering the fund's sale of a 12% stake in the company.

Also last month, WellChoice's chairman, Phil Briggs, said he would step aside. The retirement of the 76-year-old executive came in the wake of failed merger talks between WellChoice and rival

Oxford Health Plans



On Wednesday, WellChoice shares dropped 42 cents to $39.64.