'Do you not see this as an arms race?' Cigna CEO questioned on M&A activity

Cigna's CEO David Cordani addressed questions from investors Nov. 3 over concerns the company is falling behind other insurers by not pursuing major mergers or acquisitions. 

"Do you not see this as an arms race?" Kevin Fischbeck, Bank of America Merrill Lynch analyst, said. "It almost feels to me like a lot of companies are out there building capabilities. Do you feel … that potentially not pursuing M&A will be a disadvantage over the next three to five years if you're not doing deals today?"

In response, Mr. Cordani pointed to the company's strong financial performance and existing growth strategy.

"I think your framing is quite important. I wouldn't call it an arms race, I would call it stepping back," he said. "I'd ask you to think about it in a multipronged approach as opposed to M&A yes or no."

Mr. Cordani distinguished three key pieces of the company's growth strategy: organic investments, venture capital and M&A. Specifically, he discussed internal investments in things like Pathwell, data analysis and clinical quality, along with partnering with innovative outside companies. 

"We remain quite open to M&A. We do not deem it to be a silver bullet," he said.

It is true that competitors have been busy recently with large M&A deals.

Most recently, UnitedHealth Group closed on its $7.8 billion acquisition of Change Healthcare following an antitrust challenge from the government. It's expected to close on its $5.4 billion purchase of home health firm LHC Group before the end of this year. CVS Health agreed to buy home health company Signify Health for $8 billion in September.

Cigna purchased telehealth company MDLive for an undisclosed amount in 2021 and bought Express Scripts for $67 billion in 2018.

"We're positioned with strong performing foundational businesses and well positioned to accelerate business," Mr. Cordani said. "Those accelerated businesses are in sectors that have secular tailwinds."

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