UnitedHealth Group, Inc. Fourth Quarter Earnings Sneak Peek

S&P 500 (NYSE:SPY) component UnitedHealth Group, Inc. (NYSE:UNH) will unveil its latest earnings on Thursday, January 19, 2012. UnitedHealth Group designs products, provides services and applies technologies that improve access to health and well-being services.

UnitedHealth Group, Inc. Earnings Preview Cheat Sheet.

Wall St. Earnings Expectations: The average estimate of analysts is for profit of $1.02 per share, a rise of 8.5% from the company’s actual earnings for the same quarter a year ago. During the past three months, the average estimate has moved up from 87 cents. Between one and three months ago, the average estimate moved up. It has risen from $1 during the last month. Analysts are projecting profit to rise by 11.7% versus last year to $4.58.

Past Earnings Performance: Last quarter, the company beat estimates by 5 cents, coming in at net income of $1.17 a share versus the estimate of profit of $1.12 a share. It marked the fourth straight quarter of beating estimates.

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Wall St. Revenue Expectations: Analysts are projecting a rise of 6.9% in revenue from the year-earlier quarter to $25.7 billion.

Analyst Ratings: Analysts are bullish on this stock with 16 analysts rating it as a buy, none rating it as a sell and four rating it as a hold.

A Look Back: In the third quarter, profit fell 0.5% to $1.27 billion ($1.17 a share) from $1.28 billion ($1.14 a share) the year earlier, but exceeded analyst expectations. Revenue rose 6.8% to $25.28 billion from $23.67 billion.

Key Stats:

The decrease in profit in the third quarter broke a streak of three consecutive quarters of year-over-year profit increases. Net income rose 12.8% in the second quarter, 13% in the first quarter and 10.5% in the fourth quarter of the last fiscal year.

Revenue has risen the past four quarters. Revenue rose 8.5% in the second quarter from the year earlier, climbed 9.7% in the first quarter from the year-ago quarter and 10.3% in the fourth quarter of the last fiscal year.

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).

Stock Price Performance: During October 18, 2011 to January 13, 2012, the stock price had risen $7.51 (16.6%) from $45.19 to $52.70. The stock price saw one of its best stretches over the last year between September 9, 2011 and September 16, 2011 when shares rose for six-straight days, rising 11.5% (+$5.22) over that span. It saw one of its worst periods between May 18, 2011 and May 26, 2011 when shares fell for seven-straight days, falling 5.7% (-$2.88) over that span.

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

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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