Walgreens, Humana discussing equity stakes

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(Bloomberg) – Drugstore chain Walgreens Boots Alliance and insurer Humana are in early talks about taking equity stakes in each other, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The companies have held discussions about a variety of joint ventures, the Journal reported, including expanding their partnership serving older people. The paper cited people familiar with the matter without identifying them.

Walgreens declined to comment. A representative for Humana didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Walgreens Chief Executive Officer Stefano Pessina has had a longstanding interest in expanding Walgreens’ business. In recent months the company has announced several partnerships including with grocer Kroger and the medical-testing company Laboratory Corporation of America. Its rival CVS Health is merging with insurer Aetna in a tie-up meant to provide vertically integrated healthcare services.

“We should have bought an insurance company four years ago when our multiple was was higher than their multiple,” said during an interview at Bloomberg’s offices last month.

Walgreens currently owns 26% of drug distributor AmerisourceBergen, and the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year that it had held talks to buy the portion that it doesn’t already own.

During the October interview, Pessina didn’t rule out this possibility of a deal between the two at the right price.

“It is something that could happen at a certain point, maybe yes, maybe no,” Pessina said at the time. There was no rush to do so, however, because “we control them strategically.”

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Healthcare industry Healthcare costs Walgreens Humana