By Juliette Rocheleau
Despite an 11.9 percent profit decline from the year-earlier quarter, adjusted earnings of Centene Corp. (NYSE: CNC), the St. Louis-based health insurer, beat Wall Street’s estimate and shares rose 4.3 percent.
The company reported net earnings of $230 million, or diluted earnings of $1.30 per share, helped by an income tax benefit of $55 million, for the quarter ended Dec. 31, down from $261 million, or diluted earnings per share of $1.49, for the same period in the year prior. For adjusted diluted earnings, the company reported 97 cents per share. Analysts predicted 93 cents per share, according to Yahoo Finance.
Despite the fourth quarter dip, full-year earnings grew to $828 million, or $4.69 per diluted share, from $562 million, or $3.43 per diluted share.
“Centene continues to be the only company in our managed care coverage universe that has successfully built an exchange business,” wrote Cantor Fitzgerald managing director of equity research Steven Halper in a note to investors.
The company’s Affordable Care Act individual plan enrollment numbers soared to 1.6 million as of January 2018, higher than the original 1.3 million the company had predicted.
Centene does not anticipate “repeal and replace or any significant health care reform” likely to occur in 2018, said Chairman and CEO Michael Niedorff in a conference call.
Looking ahead, Centene predicted diluted earnings for the full year would range from $6.95 to $7.35 per share, compared with adjusted diluted earnings of $5.03 per share in 2017. The company plans to expand to three new states in 2018, entering Kansas, Missouri and Nevada.
In New York Stock Exchange trading, the company’s shares rose to $103.67, up $4.29.