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WellPoint stock falls despite quarterly profit

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WellPoint Inc. shares slipped in morning trading after the company beat analysts’ expectations for second-quarter profits but failed to raise its year-end earnings forecast.

Shares of the Indianapolis-based health insurer tumbled 5 percent, to $51.63 each.

WellPoint earned $1.50 per share in the latest quarter, excluding investment losses. Analysts were expecting $1.43 per share, according to a survey by Thomson Financial Network.

With investment losses, WellPoint earned $693.5 million in the quarter, or $1.43 per share. In the same quarter a year ago, the company earned $750.5 million, or $1.44 per share.

The 8-percent drop in profit stemmed from severe losses of insurance members at its employer customers, which WellPoint calls its commercial division. That unit shed 593,000 members since the same time a year ago.

Wells Fargo analyst Matt Perry wrote in a research note the enrollment declines were slightly larger than expected, according to the Associated Press.

"While the quarter was strong, the underlying results look mixed," he wrote. "The pressure in commercial fully insured margins is more severe than we expected, even after assuming some seasonality in results."

WellPoint lost nearly $108 million on its investments in the quarter, a slight improvement from a year ago, when it lost $121 million.

But the continuing investment losses forced WellPoint to lower its full-year profit forecast by 8 cents per share. It now expects to earn $5.06 to $5.12 for the year.

Revenue for the quarter fell by 1.4 percent, to $14.3 billion.

WellPoint’s customers decreased by 338,000 in the quarter, to a total of 33.2 million, but WellPoint projects it will gain as many back by the end of the year.

"We are pleased with our earnings-per-share results for the second quarter. We are managing diligently through these turbulent economic times and are currently taking a number of steps that will improve our future performance," said WellPoint CEO Angela Braly in a statement.

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