Aetna's (AET) shares rose slightly after its fourth-quarter earnings call, during which its CEO, Mark Bertolini, said that the company is considering all of its options on the heels of the Department of Justice's decision to halt its attempted $37 billion acquisition of its peer, Humana (HUM - Get Report) .
"We are disappointed in the court's decision, as we believe we put forward a compelling case," Bertolini said during the conference call. Aetna's attempt to buy Humana was blocked just last week.
The company is two weeks away from having to decide whether or not it needs to push back on the Department of Justice ruling on its attempted acquisition of Humana, he noted.
"We are in no rush," Bertolini said. "Other options are emerging," he added later when asked whether the company would continue to engage in partnerships. This likely means that Aetna's officials are looking at potential deals beyond the attempted acquisition of Humana as meaningful ways to deploy cash.
Earnings for the three months ended in December were $578 million, or $1.63 a share, well ahead of analysts' forecasts of $1.44 a share, and up nearly 19% from the same period last year. Revenue was $15.727 billion, the company said, up modestly from the fourth quarter of last year, but narrowly shy of analysts' $15.84 billion forecast.
The company is also awaiting details on how or when the Trump administration and the Republicans in Congress will repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. While both have made preliminary moves to repeal the federally mandated health care for all, neither have announced what the replacement will look like.
"In spite of the best intentions of Washington and the industry, the intended goals of the ACA have not been achieved," Bertolini said. "As the public exchanges enter their fourth year, it is clear that the risk pools for the ACA-compliant individual products will continue to deteriorate."
Bertolini echoed Donald Trump's sentiment that he wants to "preserve the good parts" of the Affordable Care Act. However, he noted that Aetna, which has already pulled out of the public exchanges, has no plans to re-enter in 2017 or 2018.
He noted during the analyst call on Tuesday that the company plans to continue to engage with politicians as they figure out how to replace the Affordable Care Act.
Aetna officials also provided updated guidance for fiscal year 2017. The company expects full-year operating earnings per share of at least $8.55 in 2017, but noted that while it is "considering its options for responding to the trial court's ruling in the Department of Justice litigation relating to the Humana Acquisition," its projections represent "a standalone scenario that assumes the termination of Aetna's merger agreement with Humana and Aetna's asset purchase agreement with Molina Healthcare (MOH - Get Report) ."
Humana is expected to report earnings on Feb. 8. The company is expected to earn $2.06 per share. Analyst Lance Wilkes of Sanford Bernstein said by phone Monday that investors should watch for information on 2017 guidance during fourth-quarter earnings calls.