UnitedHealth Group Inc. Earnings: Booking a Profit Again

S&P 500 (NYSE:SPY) component UnitedHealth Group Inc. (NYSE:UNH) reported net income above Wall Street’s expectations for the fourth quarter. UnitedHealth Group designs products, provides services and applies technologies that improve access to health and well-being services.

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UnitedHealth Group Earnings Cheat Sheet for the Fourth Quarter.

Results: Net income for the health care plans company rose to $1.26 billion ($1.17 per share) vs. $1.04 billion (94 cents per share) in the same quarter a year earlier. This marks a rise of 20.6% from the year earlier quarter.

Revenue: Rose 7.8% to $25.92 billion from the year earlier quarter.

Actual vs. Wall St. Expectations: UNH beat the mean analyst estimate of $1.02 per share. Analysts were expecting revenue of $25.7 billion.

Quoting Management: Stephen J. Hemsley, president and chief executive officer of UnitedHealth Group, said, “In 2012, we are committed to further elevating our performance and overall value to the people and markets we are privileged to serve, strengthening relationships across the health care landscape and accelerating innovation.”

Key Stats:

The company has now topped analyst estimates for the last four quarters. It beat the mark by 5 cents in the third quarter, by 21 cents in the second quarter, and by 33 cents in the first quarter.

Revenue has risen the past four quarters. Revenue increased 6.8% to $25.28 billion in the third quarter. The figure rose 8.5% in the second quarter from the year earlier and climbed 9.7% in the first quarter from the year-ago quarter.

Net income has increased 11.3% year over year on average across the last five quarters. The biggest gain came in the most recent quarter, when income climbed 20.6% from the year earlier quarter.

Looking Forward: Over the past ninety days, the average estimate for the first quarter of the next fiscal year has fallen from $1.23 per share to $1.21, indicating that analysts are growing pessisimistic about the company’s performance next quarter. For the fiscal year, the average estimate has moved up from $4.49 a share to $4.58 over the last ninety days.

Competitors to Watch: Aetna Inc. (NYSE:AET), Health Net, Inc. (NYSE:HNT), Coventry Health Care, Inc. (NYSE:CVH), Humana Inc. (NYSE:HUM), WellPoint, Inc. (NYSE:WLP), CIGNA Corporation (NYSE:CI), WellCare Health Plans, Inc. (NYSE:WCG), Universal American Corp. (NYSE:UAM), Centene Corporation (NYSE:CNC), and HealthSpring, Inc (NYSE:HS).

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(Company fundamentals provided by Xignite Financials. Earnings estimates provided by Zacks)

To contact the reporter on this story: Derek Hoffman at staff.writers@wallstcheatsheet.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Damien Hoffman at editors@wallstcheatsheet.com