Carl Icahn has sizable stake in Cigna, plans to vote against Express Scripts deal: WSJ

  • Carl Icahn has a sizable stake in health insurer Cigna and plans to vote against its acquisition of pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts, The Wall Street Journal reported.
  • Cigna and Express Scripts shareholders are set to vote on the deal on Aug. 24.
  • Cigna's rival Aetna had agreed to combine with drugstore chain and pharmacy benefit manager CVS Health months earlier in a deal that shook up the space.
Carl Icahn speaking at Delivering Alpha in New York on Sept. 13, 2016.
David A. Grogan | CNBC
Carl Icahn speaking at Delivering Alpha in New York on Sept. 13, 2016.

Carl Icahn has a sizable stake in health insurer Cigna and plans to vote against its acquisition of pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday, citing people familiar with the matter.

Cigna announced the $54 billion deal in March amid a wave of consolidation in the health-care industry. Cigna's rival Aetna had agreed to combine with drugstore chain and pharmacy benefit manager CVS Health months earlier in a deal that shook up the space.

The price equated to about $96.03 per share in cash and stock, a price that Icahn considers too high, sources told the Journal. Shares opened at $79.20 on Wednesday.

Cigna's stock gained 2 percent on the news while Express Scripts shares fell 6 percent.

Icahn's stake in Cigna amounts to less than 5 percent of outstanding shares, according to the Journal. The activist investor plans to convince other shareholders to vote against the deal on Aug. 24, sources told the Journal.

Some investors have worried whether the deal would pass regulatory scrutiny, which may account for why the shares are trading lower than the offer price. California's Insurance Commissioner urged the Department of Justice to block CVS' deal for Aetna, a move that could spill over to Cigna's bid for Express Scripts.

The looming presence of Amazon has also weighed on health-care companies. Political pressure has led some to worry about the future of pharmacy benefits manager, firms that negotiate prescription drug prices with manufacturers. President Donald Trump and his administration have sharpened attacks on middlemen and looked into revoking their ability to negotiate rebates, or discounts, with drug manufacturers.

Cigna CEO David Cordani has defended the deal as a way to "drive change" in a market that's currently "not sustainable." He's distanced this deal from AT&T's bid for Time Warner, which the Justice department opposed, telling CNBC in May that Cigna and Express Scripts are "two complementary companies."

Cigna and Icahn did not immediately respond to CNBC's requests for comment.