Aetna, Hartford, Conn., agreed to acquire the about 60% of Aetna Specialty Pharmacy it does not already own from Priority Healthcare Corp. for undisclosed terms. The joint venture, formed last year, distributes pharmaceuticals to more than 25,000 Aetna members with chronic illnesses, such as cancer, HIV, anemia and hepatitis. Aetna said it decided to take full control of the specialty pharmacy partly because of Express Scripts' acquisition of Priority Healthcare earlier this month. Aetna said the purchase price was "not material" and would be paid with available cash. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2006, pending approval from federal antitrust regulators. Aetna has acquired at least three other specialty companies over the past two years, including firms that gave it access to students and part-time workers and expanded its presence in disease management.
Aetna also reported third-quarter earnings of $377.8 million, or $1.26 per share, up 25% from $302.3 million, or 96 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter. Revenue for the quarter ended Sept. 30 rose 13% to $5.7 billion, as enrollment climbed 8% to 14.7 million members. Aetna raised its 2005 per-share earnings forecast to $4.60, from a prior estimate of $4.52 to $4.57. -- by Laura B. Benko