Anthem’s first-quarter profit surges past Wall Street’s predictions

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First-quarter profit at Anthem Inc. soared above the expectations of Wall Street analysts, prompting the Indianapolis-based health insurer to raise its forecast for the rest of the year.

Anthem earned $865 million during the first three months of the year, up 23 percent from the same period a year ago. Earnings per share came in at $3.09, up from $2.40 per share last year.

Excluding investment losses, Anthem would have earned $3.14 per share. On that basis, analysts were expecting $2.67 per share, according to a survey by Thomson Reuters.

“First quarter results reflect our growing membership base as we continue to focus on improving affordability for our members,” Anthem CEO Joe Swedish said in a prepared statement. “We are encouraged with how our strategy is playing out and believe it positions us to capitalize on multiple growth opportunities across our businesses.”

Anthem raised its full-year profit forecast, first issued in January, by 20 cents per share. The company said it now expects to earn more than $9.90 per share, excluding investment results and other extraordinary items.

Anthem said its health plans now are expected to add 700,000 to 900,000 members this year—a range that is 200,000 members higher than Anthem projected in January.

Anthem has 38.5 million members currently..

Revenue for the first quarter rose nearly 7 percent to $19.05 billion. Analysts were expecting even more, looking for revenue of $19.32 billion, according to the Thomson Reuters survey.

Anthem's stock price has risen 22.7 percent this year, closing Tuesday at $154.22 per share.

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