US: Anthem wins bid to keep Cigna killing $48 Bn deal

Anthem won a court ruling temporarily blocking Cigna from scuttling a $48 billion merger between the health insurers.

Delaware Chancery Court Judge Travis Laster concluded Wednesday Cigna executives couldn’t summarily pull out of the combination after a federal judge last week blocked the merger of the insurers as anti-competitive. He found a temporary ban would protect the “legal status quo” of the deal until he could weigh arguments over the faltering merger at an April 10 hearing.

The ruling is the latest twist in what promises to be a fierce legal battle over the deal’s failure. Cigna on Tuesday told Anthem it was terminating the merger agreement and filed a lawsuit in Delaware seeking a $1.85 billion break-up fee and $13 billion in damages from Anthem. That prompted the counter suit from Anthem in the same court to keep the merger alive.

With Cigna prevented from terminating the deal, Anthem is free to pursue an appeal in federal court in Washington seeking to overturn a Feb. 8 order that the merger of the insurers would threaten competition and should be stopped. Anthem wants a fast-track review by the appeals court so it can get a decision by an April 30 deal deadline.

Cigna’s attempts to immediately abandon the deal threatened Anthem with significant harm through “the loss of a major transaction,” Laster said in a telephonic hearing. He added that Cigna’s announcement that it was reneging on the deal “has real-world consequences.”

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