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Charges Hit Humana Quarter

But it easily beats estimates before a legal settlement and storm expenses.
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third-quarter earnings slid 41% from a year ago due to a legal charge and Hurricane Katrina, and the health insurer said both factors will weigh on full-year results.

The company earned $49.9 million, or 30 cents a share, in the quarter, compared with $84.3 million, or 52 cents a share, a year ago. The latest period included a charge of 27 cents a share for a class-action lawsuit settlement and expenses of 3 cents a share related to Katrina.

Analysts were expecting earnings of 50 cents a share before the charge.

Sales rose 20% from a year ago to $3.82 billion, about $130 million ahead of estimates. Humana said total premium and administrative service fees both rose 20% from a year ago.

"Humana's third quarter produced robust expansion of our current Medicare membership with on-track performance in our higher-margin areas of commercial focus -- ASO, individual and consumer plans," the company said.

Looking ahead, Humana put earnings in the year to Dec. 31, 2005, at $1.86 to $1.88 a share, including the 37-cent litigation expense and costs for Katrina. The forecast represents an affirmation of the company's previous guidance of $2.23 to $2.25 a share prior to those items. Analysts were forecasting $2.12 a share.

For 2006, Humana expects to earn at least $2.70 a share, including stock options expense of 10 cents a share. Analysts were expecting $2.81 a share.