Icahn to Cigna: Amazon an 'Existential Threat' to Express Scripts

Icahn is urging shareholders to vote against the buyout later this month

Managing Editor
Aug 7, 2018 at 10:34 AM
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Shares of health insurer Cigna Corporation (NYSE:CI) are in focus this morning, after billionaire investor Carl Icahn released an open letter to the company's shareholders, urging them to vote against the impending Express Scripts (ESRX) deal. In the letter -- subtitled "Cigna's $60 Billion Folly" -- Icahn said Cigna is "dramatically overpaying" for ESRX, and warned, "Competitive risk from Amazon, arguably the strongest competitor in the world, will be an existential threat to pharmacy benefit managers like Express Scripts, possibly challenging their very existence." The shareholder vote is scheduled for Aug. 24.

From a technical standpoint, CI shares popped higher at the start of the month, after an impressive second-quarter earnings report. The stock is now trading back above its 200-day moving average for the first time since a March bear gap. However, CI is facing off against the $190 area, which provided support prior to that gap. At last check, Cigna stock was up 0.5% to trade at $188.72.

Digging deeper, near-term options players favor CI put options over calls, per the stock's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 1.20, which ranks in the 95th annual percentile. This elevated SOIR reveals that puts outnumber calls by a wider-than-usual margin, looking at options set to expire within three months.

Likewise, short interest grew 16.5% during the past two reporting periods. At CI's average pace of trading, it would take more than a week for bears to buy back their bets.

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