WellPoint profit slips, beats expectations

Profit at WellPoint Inc. fell nearly 6 percent in the third quarter, but the company added 63,000 new customers during the period.

On a per-share basis, WellPoint improved its profit by 10 percent, earning $1.60 per share compared with $1.45 a year ago.

Those results surpassed analysts expectations of $1.50 per share, according to a survey by Thomson Financial.

“WellPoint delivered a solid third quarter of 2008 amidst a challenging economic environment,” CEO Angela Braly said in a statement.

In the quarter, WellPoint recognized investment losses of 71 cents per share and recorded an impairment charge related to intangible assets of 17 cents per share.

However, those charges were offset by the favorable resolution of tax issues with state and federal authorities, which resulted in a benefit of 90 cents per share.

Revenue for the quarter totaled $15.3 billion, an increase of 2 percent over the same quarter last year.

WellPoint also lowered the top end of its year-end profit forecast for the fourth time this year. It now expects 2008 profits to be $5.43 to $5.49 per share. In July, the company predicted year-end profit of $5.42 to $5.57 per share.

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