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UnitedHealth pushes Q3 earnings from operations over $5B

UnitedHealth Group Inc.'s third-quarter earnings from operations grew to $5.01 billion from $4.59 billion a year earlier, led by double-digit growth rates across each of the Optum businesses.

Net earnings attributable to UnitedHealth Group common shareholders rose year over year to $3.54 billion, or $3.67 per share, from $3.19 billion, or $3.24 per share. Adjusted attributable net earnings climbed to $3.74 billion, or $3.88 per share, from $3.36 billion, or $3.41 per share.

The S&P Global Market Intelligence consensus normalized EPS estimate for the quarter was $3.76.

Total revenues came in at $60.35 billion, versus $56.56 billion a year ago, also led by double-digit percentage revenue growth for Optum. Premiums increased to $47.40 billion from $44.61 billion in the third quarter of 2018.

The company said third-quarter medical cost trends remained in line with expectations, with the health insurance tax deferral driving the 140-basis-point year-over-year increase in the medical care ratio to 82.4%.

Favorable medical reserve development was $140 million in the quarter, with $80 million related to 2019 and $60 million related to prior periods. Days claims payable came in at 49.3 days, compared to 48.6 in the second quarter and 50.5 in the third quarter of 2018.

The third-quarter operating cost ratio improved 20 basis points from the same period in 2018 to 14.8%, reflecting the deferral of the health insurance tax and continued effects of operating cost productivity improvements, net of the effect of business mix changes and continued investments in innovation, service and growth.

Return on equity in the period was 26.2%.

Third-quarter dividends of $1.08 per share increased 20% year over year to $1 billion. The company repurchased 2.6 million shares for $600 million in the latest quarter, bringing year-to-date purchases to 20.8 million shares for $5.1 billion.

The company increased its full-year net earnings outlook to $14.15 to $14.25 per share, and adjusted net earnings to $14.90 to $15.00 per share. UnitedHealth previously expected net earnings of $13.95 to $14.15 per share and adjusted net earnings of $14.70 to $14.90 per share.

The S&P Global Market Intelligence consensus normalized EPS estimate for 2019 is $14.83.