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ESRX-MHS to Merge Next Quarter

WLP ESRX

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Investors will have to wait a little longer to see Express Scripts Inc. (ESRX - Analyst Report) and Medco Health Solutions, Inc. complete their merger, as the two companies recently agreed to extend their merger-closing date. According to the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act, the waiting period for the merger expired on March 12, 2012. However, the companies have decided to work with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and plan to close the merger by early second quarter 2012.

We note that in July 2011, Express Scripts had agreed to acquire Medco for $29.1 billion ($71.36 per share) in cash and stock. At the time of announcing the deal, Express Scripts said that Medco shareholders will receive $28.80 in cash and 0.81 shares of Express Scripts for each share of Medco that they own.

Following the closure of the acquisition, Express Scripts’ shareholders will own approximately 59% of the merged entity, with Medco’s shareholders holding the remaining.

We note the acquisition of Medco Health is expected to help lower the cost of prescription drugs and improve the quality of healthcare, thereby attracting more patients.

In a span of few years, this will be the third major acquisition for Express Scripts.

In July 2008, Express Scripts acquired the Pharmacy Services Division of Medical Services Company. Medical Services Company is a leader in providing pharmacy benefit management services to clients, providing workers compensation benefits. Further, in December 2009, Express Scripts acquired NextRx, WellPoint Inc.’s (WLP - Analyst Report) PBM segment. The deal significantly expanded Express Scripts PBM business.

However, last year Express Scripts and WellPoint voiced concerns about a contractual dispute. WellPoint said that it differs from Express Scripts on the contractual interpretation of certain terms in the agreement and certain operational matters associated with Express Scripts' performance.

While WellPoint is threatening to drag Express Scripts to court regarding the matter, Express Scripts is hopeful of a mutual settlement.

Currently, we have a Neutral recommendation on Express Scripts. The stock carries a Zacks #3 Rank (Hold rating) in the short-run.

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