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UnitedHealth (UNH) Q4 Earnings Beat Estimates, Improve Y/Y

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UnitedHealth Group Inc. (UNH - Free Report) reported fourth-quarter 2021 earnings of $4.48 per share, which outpaced the Zacks Consensus Estimate by 4.2%. The bottom line increased 77.8% year over year on revenue growth.

Revenues of $73.7 billion climbed 12.6% year over year, driven by revenue growth at both business units of UnitedHealthcare and Optum. The top line beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate by 1%.

Medical care ratio for the fourth quarter was 83.7%.

Operating margin for the quarter stood at 7.5% compared with the year-ago quarter's metric of 5.4%.

Total operating costs for the fourth quarter escalated 10.1% year over year to $68.2 billion due to increased medical costs, and a rise in depreciation and amortization along with higher cost of products sold.

Segmental Performances

UnitedHealthcare generated revenues of $56.4 billion in the quarter. Year-over-year revenue growth of 12.1% was driven by an increase in the number of people served.

Earnings from operations improved to $2.1 billion from the year-ago quarter’s figure of $396 million.

Revenues at Optum improved 14.5% year over year to $41.1 billion on the back of solid contributions from the sub-segments. Earnings from operations of $3.4 billion rose 9.7% year over year in the fourth quarter.

OptumHealth continued to perform well, courtesy of a higher number of people being catered to in value-based care arrangements and the growing strength of affiliated physicians. While OptumInsight revenues improved on growth in comprehensive managed services, OptumRx gained from higher script volumes.

Increase in Membership

UnitedHealth served 50.6 million people at the end of the quarter, up 4.5% year over year owing to increased member enrollment in Medicare Advantage and Dual Special Needs Plans and an expansion in the broader Medicaid market.

Financial Position

UNH exited the fourth quarter with cash and short-term investments of $23.9 billion, up from $19.8 million at the 2020-end level.

As of Dec 31, 2021, long-term debt less current maturities of $42.3 billion increased from $38.6 million at 2020 end.

Decline in Cash Flows

Cash flow from operations in 2021 totaled $22.3 billion, up nearly 0.8% year over year.

Full-Year Share Repurchase and Dividend Update

UnitedHealth returned $5.3 billion to its shareholders in the year via dividends, up 15% year over year, and $5 billion worth of share buyback.

2022 Guidance

UNH issued guidance for 2022 in November 2021. It affirmed its earlier projection of revenues for 2022 in the range of $317-$320 billion. Adjusted net earnings are estimated in the range of $21.10-$21.60 per share.

Cash flow from operations is expected in the band of $23-$24 billion.

Full-Year Results

For 2021, UnitedHealth’s operating earnings came in at $12 billion. Its full-year revenues grew 11.8% year over year to $287.6 billion on the back of solid segmental contributions.

Zacks Rank

UnitedHealth currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

Stocks to Consider

Some stocks worth considering from the medical space with the perfect mix of elements to surpass estimates in their upcoming quarterly releases are as follows:

Bausch Health Companies Inc. (BHC - Free Report) has an Earnings ESP of +8.46% and is Zacks #3 Ranked, currently.

HCA Healthcare, Inc. (HCA - Free Report) is currently a #3 Ranked player and has an Earnings ESP of +1.21%.

Tenet Healthcare Corp. (THC - Free Report) has an Earnings ESP of +0.96% and a Zacks Rank of 3, currently.