LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Aetna executives are still not ready to say whether they will give up on their proposed $37 billion acquisition of Louisville-based Humana in the face of a federal judge's order blocking the deal on antitrust grounds.

Aetna continues to evaluate whether it will appeal the Jan. 23 order, Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini told stock analysts on a conference call Tuesday.

The company will have to decide whether to abandon the deal or work out an extension with Humana by Feb. 15, the current deadline for the merger, Bertolini said.

"We're going to take all of that time to make sure we have pursued all potential opportunities to either appeal or not," Bertolini said. "...We are in no rush given that we are literally two weeks away from having to make that decision."

If the deal is terminated, Aetna would owe Humana a $1 billion break-up fee. Humana declined to comment on Tuesday.

One analyst asked whether Aetna and Humana could come up with an alternative plan to divest some of the combined company's assets in a way that might satisfy federal authorities.

The companies had planned to sell some of their business to Molina Healthcare for $117 million, but the proposal failed to allay the Justice Department and judge's concerns about competition following the merger.

Bertolini said it's "way too early" to say whether such a strategy might be effective.

"It's been eight days since we received the ruling. It took a few days to read it and understand it to a level of depth necessary to consider next moves and we're in the process of making all those next moves now," Bertolini said. 


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