"We see the Management changes with the CEO and CFO stepping down immediately and replacement by professional leaders as a positive change in MOH that will drive more consistent execution, margin expansion and EPS Achievability and increases the potential of take-out," Leerink analyst Ana Gupte wrote Tuesday.
WellCare Health Plans (WCG - Get Report) and Aetna (AET) are the most likely acquirers, though UnitedHealth Group (UNH - Get Report) , Anthem (ANTM - Get Report) and Centene (CNC - Get Report) "could be interested if anti-trust scrutiny allows," Gupta said.
Long Beach, Calif.-based Molina on Tuesday announced the departure of Dr. J. Mario Molina as CEO and John C. Molina as CFO. The two will continue to serve as directors.
A representative for Molina said the company was not commenting on the dismissals past nor would it comment on the Leerink note, while representatives for Aetna and UnitedHealth said they do not comment on rumor or speculation and an Anthem representative declined to comment. WellCare and Centene officials did not immediately return a request for comment.
In August, Molina agreed to buy certain Medicare Advantage assets from Aetna and Humana (HUM - Get Report) for about $117 million. The deal was part of Aetna and Humana's effort to quell the Department of Justice's antitrust concerns about their merger. In February, Aetna and Humana pulled the plug on their merger after a judge's ruling in January blocking the transaction. The deal with Molina was terminated as well.
Molina was paid a $75 million breakup fee.
Molina is searching for a new CEO and has tapped chief accounting officer Joseph W. White as interim president and CEO. The company also appointed White chief financial officer. In addition, the board named director Dale B. Wolf non-executive chairman.
"The Board of Directors appreciates Mario and John Molina's leadership and contributions for more than two decades," Wolf said in a statement, adding: "In light of the Company's disappointing financial performance, the Board has determined to change leadership in order to drive profitability through operational improvements."
After the market close, Molina reported first-quarter net income per diluted share of $1.37, versus 43 cents in the year-ago period. Adjusted net income per diluted share was $1.47, compared with 51 cents in the first quarter of 2016.
Outside the breakup fee, Molina cash EPS was 63 cents, coming in 5 cents above consensus estimates of 58 cents a share.
Shares of Molina ended Tuesday at $59.75, up 17.6%.
--Giovanni Bruno contributed to this article
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