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WellPoint says CEO search to take three to six months

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WellPoint Inc., the second-biggest U.S. health insurer, expects its search for a new CEO to take three to six months, interim CEO John Cannon told a Bank of America Corp. analyst.

The company plans to hire a search firm within the next week, Kevin Fischbeck of Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch wrote Thursday in a note to clients. Kristin Binns, a spokeswoman for the Indianapolis-based insurer, confirmed the timing.

WellPoint is seeking a replacement for former CEO Angela Braly, who stepped down Aug. 28 amid shareholder discontent. The company had missed earnings estimates and reduced its forecast twice in four months, sending shares down 11 percent since the start of the year.

“The tone of the meeting was balanced, as the company acknowledged headwinds in 2013 and 2014, but laid out a more compelling long-term story,” Fischbeck wrote of a day spent with Cannon and Chief Financial Officer Wayne DeVeydt. He recommends buying WellPoint shares. “Our buy thesis is predicated on WellPoint finding a strong CEO who over the next year can give the market visibility into the long-term opportunities.”

WellPoint shares declined less than 1 percent, to close Thursday at $58.96 each.

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