Analyst Says Sell Humana Amid 'Wishful' Takeover Speculation

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Humana  (HUM) is unlikely to be acquired while its stock is at current levels, research firm Sterne Agee wrote in a note to investors earlier today. Sterne's outlook differs with that of another research firm, Leerink Swann, which stated yesterday that a potential merger between Aetna  (AET) and Humana or Cigna  (CI) could be "imminent."

WHAT'S NEW: Humana's stock is trading at elevated levels, given the fact that the company's commercial business is generating losses this year, according to Sterne analyst Brian Wright. The analyst believes that Humana's gross margins are at risk, given the insurer's comments about "elevated" hospital admissions at the end of Q1 and into April. Those comments indicate that Humana's claims payments are poised to stay high in May, according to Wright, who added that speculation about a takeover is "wishful thinking" at current share levels. The analyst downgraded Humana shares to Underperform, the firm's sell equivalent rating, and cut his price target on the stock to $150 from $165.

WHAT'S NOTABLE: Leerink Swann yesterday asserted that cheap debt makes potential deals between Aetna and either Humana or Cigna "meaningfully accretive possibilities and imminent."

PRICE ACTION: In early trading, Humana slid 0.6% to $172.28, Aetna rose fractionally to $110.28, and Cigna was fractionally lower at $131.67.

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