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WellPoint raises profit forecast after solid first quarter

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WellPoint Inc. handily beat Wall Street’s expectations for earnings in the first quarter and raised its profit forecast for the rest of the year.

The Indianapolis-based health insurer earned $885.2 million in the first three months of the year, or $2.89 per share. Profit was 3.4 percent higher than in the same quarter a year ago.

Excluding investment losses and other extraordinary charges, the company would have earned $2.94 per share, a nearly 26-percent increase over the same quarter last year.

On that basis, analysts were expecting profit of $2.38 per share, according to a survey by Thomson Reuters.

The higher earnings prompted WellPoint to raise its full-year profit forecast to $7.75 per share, up from its previous prediction of $7.60 per share. Wall Street analysts have been forecasting $7.78 per share, even before WellPoint’s better-than-expected first-quarter results.

“We have modestly raised our full year EPS outlook as a reflection of our performance, but are still being prudent as many of the uncertainties inherent in our original guidance still exist,” WellPoint Chief Financial Officer Wayne DeVeydt said in a prepared statement.

WellPoint’s revenue in the quarter was $17.7 billion, below analysts’ predictions of $18 billion, but up 15 percent from a year ago.

The company lost 321,000 insurance plan members during the quarter, with the losses concentrated in its senior plans, local group employers, individuals and Medicaid plans.

WellPoint’s stock price has risen 14 percent this year, along with the broader markets. Its shares closed Tuesday at $69.33 apiece.
 

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