WellPoint Board Boosts Share Buyback to $4.2 Billion

WellPoint Inc., the second-biggest U.S. health insurer, increased its authorization to buy back shares to about $4.2 billion.

WellPoint raised its share repurchase amount by $3.5 billion and intends to buy the stock “over a multi-year period, subject to market and industry conditions,” the Indianapolis-based company said today in a regulatory filing. It is the insurer’s first new buyback authorization since a $5 billion plan announced in 2011, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

While WellPoint’s shares have fallen 6.1 percent since Sept. 13 amid reports that large employers are shifting away from traditional health-insurance plans, the stock has increased 37 percent for the year, as lower-than-projected medical claims have helped boost profit. WellPoint closed at $83.63 today in New York.

The company is gearing up to start sales next week on new insurance markets created by the U.S. Affordable Care Act. UnitedHealth Group Inc., based in Minnetonka, Minnesota, is the biggest health insurer by market value.

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