UnitedHealth Profits Jump, Raises EPS Estimate

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When UnitedHealth Group Inc. (NYSE: UNH) reported third-quarter 2017 results before markets opened Tuesday morning, it posted adjusted diluted quarterly earnings per share (EPS) of $2.66 on revenues of $50.3 billion. In the same period a year ago, the health insurance and benefits management firm reported EPS of $2.17 on revenues of $46.3 billion. Third-quarter results also compare to the consensus estimates for EPS of $2.56 on revenues of $50.35 billion.

The health care giant raised its earnings outlook for the fiscal year on both a GAAP and non-GAAP basis. UnitedHealth raised its GAAP EPS estimate from a range of $9.20 to $9.35 to “approach” $9.45 and adjusted EPS to rise from a prior range $9.75 to $9.90 per share to “approach” $10.00 per share.

The company raised its dividend to $3.00 annually per share in June and paid out $726 million in third-quarter dividends. UnitedHealth also repurchased 660,000 shares in the quarter, bringing its total for the first nine months of the year to 7.1 million shares repurchased for approximately $1.17 billion.

Revenues from the company’s UnitedHealthcare division rose 9.6% year over year to $40.7 billion, and revenues at its Optum benefits management division rose 8.4% to $22.9 billion. The increase includes a $1.6 billion drop related to the company’s exit from the ACA individual market combined with an ACA health insurance tax deferral.

UnitedHealthcare’s ACA individual market withdrawals, combined with the ACA health insurance tax deferral, reduced consolidated revenues by approximately $1.6 billion year over year, lowering the consolidated revenue growth rate by four percentage points. Employer and individual revenues fell by $197 million in the quarter.

Total enrollment numbers increased year over year from 48.09 million to 49.05 million year over year. Commercial enrollments fell from 30.49 million to 29.79 million. Medicare and Medicaid enrollment rose from 13.64 million to 15.18 million, and international enrollment increased from 3.97 million to 4.95 million.

The consolidated medical care ratio rose by 1.1% to 81.4% compared with the prior year quarter. UnitedHealth attributed the increase to a 140 basis point increase from the health insurance tax deferral was offset by higher levels of favorable reserve development.

Shares closed up about 4.9% on Monday at $202.57 in a 52-week range of $136.22 to $203.50 with the high posted on Monday. The stock traded up nearly 5% at $202.97 in early Tuesday trading. The consensus 12-month price target was $211.78 before results were announced.