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Earnings Roundup / Cigna

Insurer's results beat forecasts; shares jump

February 06, 2009|Times Wire Reports

Investors snapped up shares of Cigna Corp. after the managed-care company reported fourth-quarter earnings that beat analyst expectations and offered a dose of reassurance.

Philadelphia-based Cigna said it lost $209 million, or 77 cents a share, in the quarter compared with a profit of $263 million, or 93 cents, a year earlier.

But the company also reported an adjusted profit -- excluding one-time items -- of 49 cents a share and said revenue increased 8% to $4.82 billion.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had expected, on average, a profit of 41 cents on $4.75 billion in revenue. They typically exclude one-time items from their estimates.

Cigna cut management bonuses by $35 million, an expense reduction that helped the company beat Wall Street estimates, Wachovia Corp. analyst Matt Perry said in a research note.

Cigna shares, which dropped steeply last year, jumped $3.37, or 19%, to close at $21.39.

Some of that stock movement might be attributable to the actions of a competitor, said Citigroup Inc. analyst Charles Boorady. He noted that WellPoint Inc. of Indianapolis completed a $990-million bond offering at rates of 6% and 7%, and several insurers saw their stocks rise.

"The message that the bond markets are open to managed-care companies to raise debt is very positive for the group," he said.

Cigna also said it had lowered its 2009 forecast, in part because of the slumping economy and expected cost increases. It now expects an adjusted profit of $3.95 to $4.25 a share from operations. The insurer had previously forecast $4 to $4.30.

Cigna said medical membership grew 15% to 11.7 million people in the fourth quarter compared with a year earlier. But it fell 2% from 2008's third quarter. The company predicted medical membership would fall 3% in 2009.

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