Tenet Healthcare Corp. raised its profit outlook on tighter cost controls even as the weak economy meant more people were unable to pay their hospital bills in the third quarter.
Tenet reported a loss of $3 million, or 1 cent a share, in the quarter ended Sept. 30. Analysts had forecast a loss of 2 cents a share, according to Bloomberg data. A year earlier, the Dallas-based hospital operator posted a profit of $104 million, or 22 cents, boosted by investment gains.
Revenue increased 5.7% to $2.26 billion as hospital admissions were stable even in the weak economy, while outpatient visits gained 4.8%.
Tenet Chief Executive Trevor Fetter has been closing and selling hospitals, cutting costs and trying to refinance debt this year to cope with the poor economy. The company also has increased growth in its outpatient clinic business.
"I feel very good about the progress we have made this year," Fetter said. "We are heading into the final quarter of 2009 with significant positive momentum."
Tenet raised its forecast for full-year adjusted earnings by $25 million to a range of $925 million to $975 million.
Bad debt expenses rose 17.7% to $193 million, the company said.
The number of people not paying hospital bills "continues to be a risk going forward, but our concerns have been overstated in the first nine months of the year," Fetter said.
Tenet shares rose 10 cents, or 2%, to $5.40.