Anthem Won't Commit to Public Exchanges for 2018, Despite Doubling Down Previously

Anthem (ANTM) shares spiked Wednesday morning after company officials provided additional guidance on its acquisition of Cigna (CI) , and also hedged about its future participation in the public exchanges, during its third-quarter earnings call.

The Indianapolis-based health care giant saw shares spike 3.7% Wednesday morning, hitting $121.76 per share just as its earnings call ended.

Anthem's CEO Joseph Swedish reiterated the company's commitment to its $54.2 billion acquisition of Cigna, announced on June 20, 2015. Swedish noted Wednesday that the deal could save customers $2 billion overall.

That is, if it is able to close. The Department of Justice has challenged the acquisition over antitrust concerns and has asked a federal district judge to block the transaction. During the call, Swedish said that the hearings over these issues will begin Nov. 21.

"We continue to believe the Department of Justice's actions to sue the block are flawed," Swedish said. "We are fully committed to challenging the decision in the court."

Swedish said he expects the legal proceedings to end by Jan. 31, 2017.

Swedish also provided more information on Anthem's participation in the public exchanges that were set up by the Affordable Care Act.

Anthem's peers like UnitedHealth (UNH) and Aetna (AET) have been abandoning the public exchanges thanks to a lack of profitability, while Anthem and Cigna have doubled down on participation. Anthem currently offers plans in 14 states.

According to Sheryl Skolnick, an analyst at Mizuho Securities, Anthem will likely benefit most from the revenue gained from this year's open enrollment. This is thanks to Anthem's Blue Cross Blue Shield offerings, which are most often seen as a last resort insurance plan. Anthem will remain the largest insurer on most exchanges.

However, Swedish indicated that in 2018, Anthem could reduce its exposure to the public markets. While the company's officials said Wednesday that 889,000 people have signed up for plans through the public exchanges, that may not be enough to carry Anthem.

This is especially because Swedish noted that the company expects to see slightly less participation in the public markets in 2017, even despite the exit of competitors in some markets. Company officials noted that competitors' exits likely would not impact Anthem.

Swedish, though, did not provide an answer to whether Anthem will participate in 2018's markets. He noted that the company needs more detail from the government ahead of making an informed decision.

Anthem's earnings themselves were mixed. The company reported revenue of $21.13 billion, beating analysts' projections of $20.83 billion, according to FactSet.

Adjusted earnings of $2.45 per share fell short of consensus estimates by two cents. The street expected Anthem to rake in $2.47 per share.

Anthem has a market cap of $31.81 billion.

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