WellPoint Health Networks, one of California's biggest health insurers, said fourth-quarter earnings rose 8.7% as membership grew and the company kept costs under control.
Net income for the Thousand Oaks-based company rose to $67.4 million, or 99 cents a share, from year-earlier profits from continuing operations of $62 million, or 88 cents.
"They're consistent . . . they execute well, they deliver," said William McKeever, an analyst at PaineWebber.
WellPoint shares have gained 31% over the past year. Its medical membership rose 3.8% to 6.89 million from 6.64 million, led by growth at its biggest unit, Blue Cross of California.
The company's fourth-quarter revenue from premiums rose 16% to $1.56 billion from $1.34 billion. Its medical-loss ratio--medical costs as a percentage of revenue--was 80.6% during the quarter. That's down from 81% a year earlier and up from 80.5% in the third quarter of 1998.