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CNO Financial Group profit beats analysts' expectations

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A swing in investment results boosted CNO Financial Group Inc.'s third-quarter profits even as accounting charges depressed the performance of its underlying insurance businesses, the company said Tuesday.

The Carmel-based life and health insurer's investment losses and special charges from a year ago turned into slight investment gains this year, allowing it to boost third-quarter profit by 221 percent to $49.4 million. Net income per share was 17 cents, compared with 8 cents in the same quarter a year ago.

But excluding those charges, the company recorded operating profits of $47.1 million, down 13 percent from the same quarter a year ago.  Operating income was 16 cents per share, down from 29 cents per share in a year ago. Much of that decrease was due to CNO—formerly known as Conseco Inc.—issuing a significant amount of new shares in the past year.

On that basis, Wall Street analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters were expecting 15 cents per share.

The lower profits resulted from $19 million in accounting charges for depressed earnings expectations from older insurance policies CNO still holds but no longer sells. Its Other CNO Business segment recorded losses in the quarter of $24.4 million—more than three times as large as a year ago.

That performance clouded increasing strength in CNO’s active business units, which collectively boosted their earnings by 7 percent to $130.5 million, before factoring in interest and taxes. Earnings rose at the Chicago-based Bankers Life unit and the Philadelphia-based Colonial Penn unit, but fell at Carmel-based Washington National.

Revenue for the three months ended Sept. 30 fell 6 percent to $1.05 billion. However, analysts were expecting only $980 million in revenue.

"CNO had a strong third quarter, with net income again ahead of expectations," CEO Jim Prieur said in a statement, adding, “our three core growing businesses continued to perform well.”

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