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Aetna’s 1Q profit jumps 36 pct, forecast climbs

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Aetna’s first-quarter net income soared 36 percent, fueled by gains from a multi-billion-dollar acquisition, and the health insurer hiked its 2014 earnings forecast above Wall Street estimates.

Its results breezed past analysts’ expectations, and Aetna shares jumped more than 5 percent Thursday after it detailed a starkly different quarter compared with competitor UnitedHealth Group, which dragged down other health insurance stocks last week after it said first quarter earnings fell 8 percent.

Aetna completed a $6.9 billion acquisition of fellow insurer Coventry Health Care last May, and it said Thursday that deal was the main factor behind its growth in this year’s first quarter. The Hartford, Conn., insurer’s medical enrollment swelled about 24 percent in the quarter to 22.7 million people versus last year.

Coventry serves customers in two markets primed for growth. It administers Medicaid, the state and federally funded program that covers the needy and disabled people, and it offers Medicare Advantage plans. Those are subsidized versions of the federal government’s Medicare program for the elderly and also disabled people.

Aetna Inc. reaped large, year-over-year gains in both those categories during the quarter. It also added another 230,000 paying customers through public insurance exchanges that debuted this year, courtesy of the health care overhaul. The federal law set up state-based exchanges on which customers can shop for coverage with help from income-based tax credits.

Aetna expects to add about 450,000 paying customers this year through the exchanges, and company officials said the risk of that business appears to be manageable so far, although they cautioned that they still don’t have a good sense for what types of claims these customers will generate.

“It has been kind of in the neighborhood of our expectations,” Chief Financial Officer Shawn Guertin said, adding that the company still expects a “modest loss” this year from its exchange coverage, a small slice of its overall business.

Overall, Aetna earned $665.5 million, or $1.82 per share, in the first quarter. That’s up from $490.1 million, or $1.48 per share, a year earlier.

Adjusted earnings totaled $1.98 per share, not counting one-time items.

Analysts forecast earnings of $1.53 per share, according to FactSet.

Operating revenue excluding capital gains totaled $13.97 billion. Analysts expected about $13.6 billion.

Aetna now expects 2014 adjusted earnings of between $6.35 and $6.55 per share, which is more than the average analyst expectation of $6.31 per share.

Shares of several health insurers dipped last week after UnitedHealth Group Inc. also warned that it saw some tough price competition in several markets, including New York. Aetna said Thursday it hasn’t seen the same thing. Trends in the sector should become clear as other major insurers like the Blue Cross Blue Shield provider WellPoint Inc. report results in the next couple weeks.

Aetna shares climbed $3.74, or 5.4 percent, to $72.65 in midday trading, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose slightly. UnitedHealth and WellPoint shares both advanced more than 2 percent.

Aetna’s 1Q profit jumps 36 pct, forecast climbs

KDWN

Aetna’s first-quarter net income soared 36 percent, fueled by gains from a multi-billion-dollar acquisition, and the health insurer hiked its 2014 earnings forecast above Wall Street estimates.

Its results breezed past analysts’ expectations, and Aetna shares jumped more than 5 percent Thursday after it detailed a starkly different quarter compared with competitor UnitedHealth Group, which dragged down other health insurance stocks last week after it said first quarter earnings fell 8 percent.

Aetna completed a $6.9 billion acquisition of fellow insurer Coventry Health Care last May, and it said Thursday that deal was the main factor behind its growth in this year’s first quarter. The Hartford, Conn., insurer’s medical enrollment swelled about 24 percent in the quarter to 22.7 million people versus last year.

Coventry serves customers in two markets primed for growth. It administers Medicaid, the state and federally funded program that covers the needy and disabled people, and it offers Medicare Advantage plans. Those are subsidized versions of the federal government’s Medicare program for the elderly and also disabled people.

Aetna Inc. reaped large, year-over-year gains in both those categories during the quarter. It also added another 230,000 paying customers through public insurance exchanges that debuted this year, courtesy of the health care overhaul. The federal law set up state-based exchanges on which customers can shop for coverage with help from income-based tax credits.

Aetna expects to add about 450,000 paying customers this year through the exchanges, and company officials said the risk of that business appears to be manageable so far, although they cautioned that they still don’t have a good sense for what types of claims these customers will generate.

“It has been kind of in the neighborhood of our expectations,” Chief Financial Officer Shawn Guertin said, adding that the company still expects a “modest loss” this year from its exchange coverage, a small slice of its overall business.

Overall, Aetna earned $665.5 million, or $1.82 per share, in the first quarter. That’s up from $490.1 million, or $1.48 per share, a year earlier.

Adjusted earnings totaled $1.98 per share, not counting one-time items.

Analysts forecast earnings of $1.53 per share, according to FactSet.

Operating revenue excluding capital gains totaled $13.97 billion. Analysts expected about $13.6 billion.

Aetna now expects 2014 adjusted earnings of between $6.35 and $6.55 per share, which is more than the average analyst expectation of $6.31 per share.

Shares of several health insurers dipped last week after UnitedHealth Group Inc. also warned that it saw some tough price competition in several markets, including New York. Aetna said Thursday it hasn’t seen the same thing. Trends in the sector should become clear as other major insurers like the Blue Cross Blue Shield provider WellPoint Inc. report results in the next couple weeks.

Aetna shares climbed $3.74, or 5.4 percent, to $72.65 in midday trading, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose slightly. UnitedHealth and WellPoint shares both advanced more than 2 percent.

Aetna’s 1Q profit jumps 36 pct, forecast climbs

KDWN

Aetna’s first-quarter net income soared 36 percent, fueled by gains from a multi-billion-dollar acquisition, and the health insurer hiked its 2014 earnings forecast above Wall Street estimates.

Its results breezed past analysts’ expectations, and Aetna shares jumped more than 5 percent Thursday after it detailed its quarterly performance.

The Hartford, Conn., insurer closed a $6.9 billion acquisition of fellow insurer Coventry Health Care last May, and it said Thursday that deal was the main factor behind its growth in this year’s first quarter.

Aetna Inc. is the nation’s third-largest health insurer, and its medical enrollment swelled 24 percent in the quarter to 22.7 million people versus last year.

Coventry serves customers in two markets primed for growth. It administers Medicaid, the state and federally funded program that covers the needy and disabled people, and it offers Medicare Advantage plans. Those are subsidized versions of the federal government’s Medicare program for the elderly and also disabled people.

Aetna Chairman and CEO Mark Bertolini told analysts on Thursday that the insurer added about 130,000 Medicare Advantage customers during the quarter.

It also added another 230,000 paying customers through public insurance exchanges that debuted this year, courtesy of the health care overhaul. The federal law set up state-based exchanges on which customers can shop for coverage with help from income-based tax credits.

Bertolini said Aetna expects to add about 450,000 paying customers this year through the exchanges, and the risk of that business appears to be manageable so far, although he cautioned that they still don’t have a good sense for what types of claims these customers will generate.

Insurers and analysts have been worried that sick people who have been unable to find decent coverage would overload these exchanges at first, which could strain insurer balance sheets and lead to future price hikes.

Overall, Aetna earned $665.5 million, or $1.82 per share, in the quarter that ended March 31. That’s up from $490.1 million, or $1.48 per share, a year earlier.

Adjusted earnings totaled $1.98 per share, not counting one-time items like a $92 million loss from the early retirement of some long-term debt and costs tied to the Coventry deal.

Analysts forecast earnings of $1.53 per share, according to FactSet.

Operating revenue excluding capital gains totaled $13.97 billion. Analysts expected about $13.6 billion in revenue.

Aetna said its revenue also grew because it raised prices or premiums on its coverage to recover fees and taxes imposed by the overhaul, starting this year.

The insurer’s bottom line also was helped by a moderate flu season and harsh winter weather, which kept people home and away from doctor’s offices, where they use their health insurance.

Aetna now expects 2014 adjusted earnings to range between $6.35 and $6.55 per share. It had previously forecast at least $6.25 per share.

Analysts expect $6.31 per share.

Aetna shares climbed $3.87, or 5.6 percent, to $72.78 in morning trading, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell slightly.

Aetna’s 1Q profit jumps 36 pct, forecast climbs

KDWN

Aetna says its first-quarter net income soared 36 percent, fueled by gains from a multi-billion-dollar acquisition. The health insurer raised its 2014 earnings forecast.

The Hartford, Conn., insurer earned $665.5 million, or $1.82 per share, in the January-March period. That’s up from $490.1 million, or $1.48 per share, a year earlier.

Adjusted earnings totaled $1.98 per share, not counting charges. Analysts forecast earnings of $1.53 per share.

Revenue jumped 47 percent to $13.99 billion. Analysts expected about $13.6 billion in revenue.

Aetna closed its $6.9 billion acquisition of Medicare and Medicaid coverage provider Coventry Health Care last May.

The insurer says it now expects 2014 adjusted earnings to range between $6.35 and $6.55 per share. It had previously forecast at least $6.25 per share.

Analysts expect $6.31 per share.