UPDATE 1-CVS, Aetna executives defend $69 bln deal with eye on savings

(Adds details from call, share movement)

NEW YORK, Dec 4 (Reuters) - CVS Health Corp and Aetna Inc top executives on Monday defended their planned merger to Wall Street analysts who questioned the $69 billion deal, promising both near- and long-term savings for the combined company.

CVS and Aetna announced on Sunday that they had reached a deal, two months after talks between the companies were first reported.

With the agreement and the price already widely reported, share moves in both companies were muted in early Monday trading. Aetna rose 1.8 percent, or $3.22, to $184.40 while CVS fell 4 percent, or $3.03, to $72.08.

During a conference call with analysts, Aetna's top executive Mark Bertolini said that the companies need to merge in order to realize the full benefits of the deal. The companies said that includes $750 million in near-term savings, in part from eliminating corporate redundancies and long-term healthcare cost savings from moving more healthcare functions into CVS' MinuteClinics down the road.

"Owner economics matter here," Bertolini said when asked by a Wall Street analyst why the two companies did not simply partner, saying that as one entity, CVS would be better able to find savings with Aetna.

Leerink analyst Ana Gupte questioned the ability of the company to reach that $750 million given health insurance price competition and pharmaceutical pricing pressure from rivals like OptumRx, part of UnitedHealth Group Inc.

(Reporting by Caroline Humer; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Nick Zieminski)