Strong Growth Lifts UnitedHealth Earnings

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UnitedHealth Group Inc. (NYSE: UNH) reported fourth-quarter and full-year 2013 results before markets opened Thursday morning. For the quarter, the health insurance and benefits management firm posted diluted earnings per share (EPS) of $1.41 on revenues of $31.1 billion. In the same period a year ago, UnitedHealth reported EPS of $1.20 on $28.77 billion in revenue. Third-quarter results also compare to the consensus estimates for EPS of $1.40 on revenues of $31.06 billion.

For the full year, the company reported adjusted EPS of $5.50 on revenues of $122.5 billion. A year ago the company reported EPS of $5.28 on $110.62 billion in revenue. The consensus estimate called for EPS of $5.49 on revenues of $122.22 billion.

Enrollment growth totaled 4.5 million for the year, including 170,000 in the fourth quarter. Overall, the company served nearly 90 million people in 2013. The 2013 consolidated medical care ratio increased 110 basis points year-over-year to 81.5%. The fourth quarter 2013 medical care ratio increased 70 basis points year-over-year to 81.2%.

For the full year, the company forecasts revenues of $128 billion to $129 billion, with EPS in a range of $5.40 to $5.60. The consensus forecast so far calls for $5.62 per share on $131.27 billion.

The company said it used nearly $3.2 billion for share repurchases in 2013, buying more than 48 million shares at an average price of about $65.50 per share. It also paid $1.1 billion in shareholder dividends in 2013, a growth of 29% year-over-year.

Shares were inactive in premarket trading Thursday, after ending Wednesday at $74.84, in a 52-week range of $52.51 to $77.33. Thomson Reuters had a consensus analyst price target of around $82.41 before the results were announced.

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