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Anthem quarterly profit tops expectations; insurer says it's 'well positioned' for 2017

February 1, 2017

Health insurer Anthem Inc. said profit doubled in the fourth quarter, helped by rising premiums and membership increases in Medicaid and local group businesses.

The Indianapolis-based company, which operates Blue Cross Blue Shield plans in more than a dozen states, on Wednesday morning posted profit of $368.4 million, or $1.37 a share. That's up from a profit of $180.9 million, or 68 cents a share, in the same period a year ago.

Excluding one-time charges, Anthem posted fourth-quarter profit of $1.76 a share, up from $1.14 in the year-ago quarter, beating Wall Street estimates. Analysts had expected the company to earn $1.61 per share, according to figures compiled by Thomson Reuters. Analysts' estimates normally exclude special items.

Revenue for the quarter was $21.5 billion, up 7.4 percent.

"We are well positioned for a successful 2017, building off of improved business momentum in the second half of 2016," CEO Joseph Swedish said in a statement.

The company's press release did not mention any new developments in its pending, $54 billion acquisition of rival insurer Cigna Corp. The Department of Justice last year sued to block the merger, saying it would harm competition in the national insurance market. The case is awaiting a decision by a federal judge.

Last month, a different federal judge blocked a similar deal—insurer Aetna Inc.'s proposed $34 billion acquisition of rival Humana Inc.

Anthem said medical enrollment overall was relatively flat during the fourth quarter. Enrollment increases in the Medicaid and local groups were largely offset by declines in the individual and national segments.

For the full year, however, the company saw medical enrollment jump 3.4 percent, as more than 1.3 million people signed up for its plans, bringing membership as of Dec. 31 to 39.9 million members.

Revenue for the full year jumped 7.5 percent, to $78.8 billion.

Overhead costs dropped from 16.3 percent of revenue to 15.2 percent in the fourth quarter, helped by what the company called "efficiency initiatives" and higher operating revenue.

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