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CVS reportedly close to acquiring Aetna in $66B deal

CVS Health Corp. is in talks to purchase Aetna Inc. for more than $66 billion, the Wall Street Journal is reporting.

The Journal said the companies are in late-stage talks of negotiations for a deal that would create a wide-ranging health care leviathan, focused on everything from selling insurance to negotiating drug prices with pharmaceutical companies to providing drugs to consumers.

The purchase would include mainly cash as well as some stock, the Journal said. The deal would likely be valued between $200 and $205 a share for Aetna, a premium of more than 25 percent, the Journal said.

A spokeswoman for Rhode Island-based CVS said the company would not comment on "rumors or speculation." A spokeswoman for Aetna did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

CVS Health currently boasts 9,700 retail stores and another 1,100 walk-in health clinics, the company’s federal filings said. It’s pharmacy benefit manager negotiates drug prices for insurers on behalf of another 90 million plan members, and its senior pharmacy care business serves more than 1 million patients a year.

In Massachusetts, CVS has 404 locations.

Aetna had 23 million members as of the end of 2016, and had negotiated contracts with 1.3 million health care providers.

The stocks of both companies were relatively stable after the news broke.

Aetna originally had plans to merge with Humana, a $37 billion deal that was called off in February after a federal judge temporarily blocked the merger. A deal with CVS would likely trigger a similar federal anti-trust review.

News of CVS’s potential growth comes as made recent moves to enter into the pharmacy business. To combat the tech giant, CVS announced free same-day delivery for drugs to several cities, including Boston, beginning early next year, and next-day delivery starting in early 2018.

An acquisition of Aetna would help lock down clients for its pharmacy benefit manager, and would direct Aetna customers to its retail stores.

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