Health Net

(HNT)

posted fourth-quarter earnings that matched Wall Street's expectations and rose from a year ago, as enrollment in the company's health plans increased and pricing improved.

Shares of Health Net lost $1, or 4.6%, to $20.60 in recent

New York Stock Exchange

trading.

The managed health care provider said fourth-quarter earnings rose to $46.2 million, or 37 cents a share, from $37.4 million, or 31 cents a share, in the same period last year. According to a poll by

First Call/Thomson Financial

, 15 analysts expected fourth-quarter earnings of 37 cents a share.

Revenue for the quarter grew 7.1% to $2.36 billion from $2.20 billion last year. The company also said it added 125,000 new health plan members, which led to 3% same-store enrollment growth, during the quarter, including 86,000 new commercial health plan members.

Health Net expects its "solid and consistent performance to continue throughout 2001" and forecast earnings of $1.55 to $1.58 a share for the year. The company reported full-year 2000 earnings of $1.33 a share. Analysts expect 2001 earnings of $1.57 a share.

In addition, the company believes its quarterly earnings in 2001 will grow 17% to 20% from the same quarters in 2000. Health Net also projected that health plan revenue will grow "in the low double digits, fueled by premium increases and continued enrollment growth."