US health insurer WellPoint buying eyewear retailer 1-800 Contacts for $900 million: report

US health insurer WellPoint Inc is nearing a deal to buy contact-lens and eyewear retailer 1-800 Contacts Inc for around $900 million, The Wall Street Journal today reported, citing a person familiar with the matter.

Privately-owned, Draper, Utah-based 1-800 Contacts sells various brands of contact lenses, including Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Ciba Vision, Bausch & Lomb and CooperVision.

With an inventory of almost 10 million contacts lenses, 1-800 Contacts is the world's largest contact lens store and holds a 10-per cent share of the $3.6 billion market in the US.

Since the last 11 years, the company has filled more than 15 million orders for over 5 million customers.

The company was taken private in 2007 for $340 million by Fenway Partners, a middle market private equity firm with approximately $2 billion under management.

Indianapolis, Indiana-based WellPoint is the largest managed health care company in the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. It has a market capitilisation of around $22 billion and an annual turnover of $56.7 billion.