Humana takes rare step of squashing Centene deal talk

Centene shares sank Monday after rival health insurer Humana took the rare step of refuting reports that it was interested in a deal

Centene shares are tumbling after Humana took the rare step of publicly refuting reports that it's interested in buying the company.

Humana said in a prepared statement Monday that it will not make a bid for Centene, which specializes in running state-based Medicaid coverage programs. Humana is one of the nation's largest providers of privately run Medicare Advantage plans.

Companies normally do not comment on potential deals. But Humana Inc., based in Louisville, Kentucky, said it made an exception due to "significant investor speculation and persistent market rumors."

Centene shares dropped more than 8% in early trading while Humana's stock climbed 5%.