Healthcare Business

UnitedHealth Makes a Push With Earnings

UnitedHealth Group Inc. (NYSE: UNH) reported its first-quarter financial results Thursday before the markets opened. The company had $1.46 in earnings per share (EPS) on $35.8 billion in revenue, versus Thomson Reuters consensus estimates of $1.35 in EPS on $34.63 billion in revenue. In the same period of the previous year, it reported EPS of $1.10 and revenue of $31.71 billion.

The company now forecasts full-year results at $143 billion in revenues and EPS in a range of $6.15 to $6.30, up from $6.00 to $6.25. The consensus estimates are $6.21 in EPS and $141.68 billion in revenue.

The first quarter of 2015 had cash flows from operations of $2.3 billion, about 1.6 times net earnings. At the same time, cash flows grew 61% from the previous year’s first quarter due to growth in risk-based products and the expansion in overall earnings.

The consolidated medical care ratio decreased 140 basis points year-over-year to 81.1% in the first quarter of 2015.

In the Medicare Advantage segment, UnitedHealth grew to serve 220,000 more seniors, up 7% from the same quarter in the previous year, including 200,000 more in the first quarter of 2015. Medicare Supplement products grew 8% to serve 305,000 more people for the same period, including 180,000 in the first quarter. UnitedHealthcare’s stand-alone Medicare Part D prescription drug plan participation remained largely unchanged, contracting year-over-year by 40,000 people.

UnitedHealthcare Global’s first quarter had revenues of $1.5 billion, which decreased 7%, or $107 million, from the same period in the previous year. Note that the number of people served declined 495,000 from the previous year as a result of strengthened pricing and underwriting disciplines in response to regulatory actions causing use of the health care system to rise.

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According to UnitedHealth:

The Company’s balance sheet remained strong, with a debt to total capital ratio of 36.6 percent at March 31, 2015. UnitedHealth Group repurchased $900 million in stock in the first quarter, acquiring more than 8 million shares, and grew dividend payments to shareholders by 29 percent year-over-year to $357 million.

Stephen J. Hemsley, CEO of UnitedHealth Group, said:

We are working to create more effective and more modern approaches to accessing and delivering health care. We are gratified with the market response to our efforts, providing us opportunities to serve more people, in more ways.

Shares closed Wednesday down 2.2%, at $117.32 in a 52-week trading range of $73.61 to $123.76. In premarket trading Thursday, shares were up 2.6% at $120.40. The stock has a consensus analyst price target of $134.25.