Aetna (AET) Stock Climbing on Merger Speculation

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Shares of Aetna Inc. (AET) are higher by 4.71% to $121.32 in late afternoon trading on Monday, as insurance stocks are soaring on reports that several mergers could be in the works.

Aetna may be a takeover target for UnitedHealth Group (UNH), who is also said to be considering a Cigna (CI) deal, sources told The Wall Street Journal.

Cigna has already been approached by Anthem (ANTM) in regards to a merger, The Journal added. Anthem is said to have made two takeover bids for Cigna in the past 10 days. The company is reported to have rejected Anthem's bid. 

Larger health insurers have been expected by analysts to start looking towards mergers for a while now, in order to give themselves a competitive edge as the industry continues to change, The Journal noted.

The speculation over talks regarding Anthem and Cigna means that the next big deal within the health insurance sector won't necessarily be a sale of Humana (HUM), as is the expectation of many with an eye on the industry, according to The Journal.

If Anthem and Cigna were to merge it would eliminate two possible Humana buyers and leave the company with what The Journal has described as "only one major dance partner" in Aetna.

So far today, 4.93 million shares of Aetna have exchanged hands as compared to its average daily volume of 1.97 million shares.

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