On Nov 11, 2016, the stock of UnitedHealth Group Inc. (UNH - Free Report) climbed to a 52-week high of $147.50. The upside in the stock is believed to have been driven by a profitable third quarter reported last month and raised guidance for 2016.
Investors favorably viewed the company’s third-quarter results, which witnessed broad-based revenue and earnings growth.
The quality of earnings was strong as evident by revenue growth of 12% year over year to $46.3 billion. The company’s adjusted earnings per share grew 23% to $2.17 per share. Adjusted cash flows of $3.4 billion increased 22% over the prior-year quarter, and return on equity exceeded 21%.
Investors also appreciated management’s positive tone during the third-quarter earnings conference call regarding the expectation of continued strong performance in the fourth quarter and into 2017. The strength should be driven by solid customer retention and broad-based growth across its businesses, driven by deeper and more strategic relationships.
The company also expects individual and group MA to see continued strength in 2017. It expects growth in Part D in 2017, with the introduction of a new nationwide product set, targeted at a broader senior demographic.
The rise in share price must also have been favored by the increase in the earnings guidance for 2016 to approximately $8 per share from the previous estimate of $7.80 to $7.90 backed by stellar earnings in the first nine months of the year. GAAP earnings per share are expected to be $7.45 compared with the previous guidance of $7.25 to $7.40. Management also expects the momentum to continue in 2017.
UnitedHealth carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.
Another player Humana Inc. (HUM - Free Report) and Aetna Inc. (AET - Free Report) also touched a 52-week high recently following strong third-quarter earnings and on hopes that the new governance under the presidency of Donald Trump will help their merger, which is mired in deep uncertainty currently. Another player from the same industry Tenet Healthcare Corporation (THC - Free Report) , however, fell to a 52-week low earlier during the month following the third-quarter earnings release which revealed poor performance and weak guidance.
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