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Company Profile: Hartford, Conn.-based Aetna is a health care benefit company, which offers traditional and consumer-directed health insurance products and related services, including medical, pharmacy, dental, behavioral health, group life and disability plans.
Aetna nearly quadrupled its annual dividend to 15 cents per share, up from payout of 4 cents per share in 2010, and moved to a quarterly dividend payment cycle. The higher dividend will be payable on April 29 to all shareholders of record on April 14. That will bring Aetna's yield to around 1.6%.
Aetna forecast stronger-than-expected 2011 earnings to be in a range between $3.70 and $3.80 per share, higher than the $3.27 view analysts were expecting. Analysts have since upwardly revised their expectations and are now looking for the health care company to book $3.53 per share.
Aetna recently posted a higher fourth-quarter profit even as revenue fell. Earnings surged 30% to $215.6 million, or 53 cents a share, while sales fell 2.5% to $8.54 billion. Adjusted earnings for the latest quarter were 63 cents a share.
In Feb. analysts from Susquehanna upgraded their rating on Aetna from neutral to positive.
Citigroup analysts raised their price target on the insurer to $38, setting a hold rating on Aetna shares. Citi also boosted its earnings-per-share estimate on the stock, citing lower pension costs and a decreased share count.
Goldman Sachs upgraded Aetna to buy from neutral, setting a $44 price target on the stock. The analysts noted that recent channel checks suggest improving fundamentals.
Analysts at Barclays Capital raised their price target on Aetna by $4 to $45, setting an overweight rating on the stock.