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WellPoint reaffirms 2012 earnings forecast

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WellPoint Inc. is sticking with a 2012 earnings forecast that it had cut in July, and the nation's second-largest health insurer said it expects next year's earnings to be on par with this year's performance.

The Indianapolis company on Tuesday reaffirmed its forecast for 2012 adjusted earnings of $7.30 to $7.40 per share, which doesn't count investment gains and litigation or acquisition costs. That means the forecast doesn't count costs tied to its acquisition of fellow insurer Amerigroup Corp., a $4.46 billion deal WellPoint expects to close later this month.

Analysts expect, on average, earnings of $7.46 per share, according to FactSet.

WellPoint said July 25 it was cutting its outlook from a previous forecast of $7.57 per share after enduring a tough month of May and seeing enrollment slip. The insurer also reported that day second-quarter earnings that both fell and missed expectations.

CEO Angela Braly then resigned in August as investor frustration started to surface over the performance of the insurer, which runs Blue Cross Blue Shield plans in 14 states and trails only UnitedHealth Group Inc. in size.

WellPoint then trumped Wall Street expectations in the third quarter, when the insurer recorded its first quarterly, year over year, increase in earnings since early 2011.

WellPoint said Tuesday it expects 2013 earnings to be "relatively stable" with 2012. The insurer has said it will focus next year on preparing for 2014, when the health care overhaul will expand coverage and provide subsidies or tax credits to help people buy insurance. WellPoint plans to spend as much as $300 million next year to prepare for those expansions.

The company will release a specific earnings forecast for the new year in early 2013.

WellPoint's shares climbed 57 cents, to $58.78 each, Tuesday afternoon, while broader trading indexes rose less than 1 percent. WellPoint shares have slipped about 11 percent so far in 2012.

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