WellCare Crushes Estimates

It guides way, way, way up.
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WellCare (WCG) - Get Report blasted third-quarter estimates, raised guidance and gave its CEO an added chairman's title.

The Tampa, Fla., health insurer made $43 million, or $1.06 a share, for the quarter ended Sept. 30, up from the year-ago $16 million, or 43 cents a share. Revenue more than doubled, soaring to $1 billion from the year-earlier $496 million.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial were looking for a 95-cent profit on sales of $977 million.

"We doubled the size of the Company over the past year and retained our focus on execution and operational discipline," said CEO Todd S. Farha. "We continue our focus on the needs of seniors, families and underserved populations to deliver higher quality healthcare at lower cost to our government partners. In 2007, we will continue our growth by launching Medicare private fee-for-service plan offerings and our Medicaid expansion in the northeast region of Ohio."

Medical benefits expense for the third quarter of 2006 was $802.9 million, representing 80.8% of premium revenues, compared with $396.1 million, representing 80.7% of premium revenues, for the same period last year.

For 2006, the company expects to make around $3.35 a share on revenue of $3.7 billion. For 2007, WellCare sees making $4 a share on revenue of $4.8 billion.

Analysts were looking for $2.89 a share on revenue of $3.6 billion for 2006 and $3.40 a share on revenue of $4.4 billion for 2007.

Shares were halted late Wednesday.