WellChoice, New York, said it called off talks to acquire Oxford Health Plans, Trumbull Conn., a deal that would have created a new health insurance powerhouse in the Northeast. The news, offered in a brief written statement, comes after weeks of speculation that WellChoice, the parent of Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield, planned to pay as much as a 25% premium for Oxford in order to keep it out of the hands of much larger rivals like UnitedHealth Group. WellChoice officials declined to discuss why the talks collapsed but said the company remained interested in future acquisitions. WellChoice released the news after reporting a 24% jump in first-quarter net income to $59.2 million, or 71 cents per share, from $47.7 million, or 57 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter. Revenue rose 7% to $1.38 billion, and enrollment inched up 1% to 4.9 million members. The company boosted its full-year, per-share earnings outlook to between $2.81 and $2.85 from a prior projection of between $2.75 and $2.80. -- by Laura B. Benko
WellChoice ends Oxford talks, says profit up 24%
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