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UnitedHealth Expands in Middle East With Al Sagr Insurance

UnitedHealth Group Inc., the biggest U.S. health insurer by sales, will expand coverage in the Middle East, joining rival health plans in a race to win international business to offset changes at home.

UnitedHealth reached an agreement to provide insurance and medical services through an alliance with Dubai-based Al Sagr National Insurance Co., the companies said in a statement today. The partnership enables UnitedHealth to offer coverage to companies with workers in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Qatar, Oman, Lebanon, Bahrain and Kuwait.

U.S. insurers have sought to grow outside the country as they prepare for new costs and regulations from the health care overhaul passed by Congress in 2010. Bloomfield, Connecticut-based Cigna Corp., the fifth-largest insurer, said last month it expects to grow international revenue by as much as 30 percent this year as a hedge against changes in the U.S. health system.

UnitedHealth “is committed to addressing the challenges faced by our clients across the globe, by making seamless access to high-quality health care easier,” said Simon Stevens, president of global health for the Minnetonka, Minnesota-based company.

The insurer has expanded services for expatriate workers and multinational corporations, Chief Financial Officer David Wichmann told analysts on a Nov. 29 conference call. It’s too soon to provide revenue projections from the Al Sagr deal, a spokesman, Tyler Mason, said in a telephone interview.

UnitedHealth rose less than 1 percent to $55.78 at the close of New York trading. The company’s shares have jumped 29 percent in the past 12 months.

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