CNO Financial’s first-quarter profits surge 59 percent

Profit surged at CNO Financial Group Inc. in the first quarter, topping the expectations of Wall Street analysts.

The Carmel-based life and health insurer on Monday reported earnings of $54 million in the three months ended March 31, up 59 percent from the same quarter a year ago.

The profit translated into 19 cents per diluted share, compared with 16 cents per share predicted by analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters.

“These results are at the high end of the preliminary earnings range we announced last week,” CNO Financial Group’s CEO Jim Prieur said in a statement. “Our results were driven by solid performance of our core businesses.”

CNO enjoyed a big boost in profit at its Chicago-based Bankers Life unit because of higher interest-rate spreads on its annuity products, as well as fewer costs on long-term care policies it holds but no longer sells. Those results offset a dip in profits at CNO’s Carmel-based Washington National unit and flat profits at Philadelphia-based Colonial Penn.

Revenue for the quarter totaled $1.05 billion, up 4.7 percent from the same quarter a year ago and slightly ahead of analysts’ projects.

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