UnitedHealth Q3 Earnings Up 23%, Top Estimates

Earnings and revenue both exceeded Wall Street expectations and the raised its full-year earnings and revenue outlook in light of the strong results.

Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth Group, Inc., on Tuesday posted better-than-expected third-quarter results, prompting the company to raise its full-year outlook.

Net earnings for the quarter that ended September 30 totaled $1.28 billion, or $1.14 per share, up 23 percent from $1.04 billion, or 89 cents per share, in the same period last year.

The earnings topped the estimates of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters, who expected the company to earn 84 cents per share.

Third-quarter revenue rose about 9 percent to $23.7 billion from last year's third-quarter revenue of $21.7 billion. The revenue results slightly topped the $23.3 billion that analysts had predicted.

The company's health benefits segment saw a 9 percent increase in revenue, driven by an increase of 1 million people served in the past year. The revenue increase was partially offset, however, by a year-over-year net decrease of 55,000 people served in the commercial benefits market-a loss that's attributed to the significant decline in U.S. employment.

During the third quarter, the company used $1.9 billion in cash to fund acquisitions in the health services market, primarily in the areas of clinical workflow and compliance, and health system connectivity.

The company's Ingenix subsidiary acquired several companies during the quarter, including Picis, Inc.-a Wakefield, Massachusetts-based provider of health information solutions to hospitals, and San Diego-based A-Life Medical, which provides medical coding solutions.

In light of the better-than-expected quarterly results, UnitedHealth raised its full-year earnings outlook and now expects them to be in the range of $3.85 per share to $3.95 per share, up from its previous estimate of $3.40 per share to $3.60 per share. Analysts expect the company to earn $3.60 per share.

The company also raised its full-year revenue outlook slightly to about $94 billion, up from its previous outlook of about $93 billion.

Shares of the company's stock were down 2.5 percent to $35.36 in Tuesday morning trading.

UnitedHealth Group is Minnesota's largest public company based on revenue, which totaled $87.1 billion in 2009.