UnitedHealth Beats Q1 Earnings Forecast, Holds 2020 Profit Guidance

UnitedHealth maintained its 2020 earnings forecast after posting solid first quarter earnings, adding it won't ask for government assistance amid the coronavirus pandemic.

UnitedHealth Group  (UNH) - Get Report posted stronger-than-expected first quarter earnings Wednesday and held onto its full-year earnings guidance as it continues to monitor the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on its U.S. operations. 

UnitedHealth said adjusted earnings for the three months ending in March came in $3.72 per share, down 1 penny from the same period last year but 10 cents ahead of the Street consensus forecast. Group revenues, UnitedHealth said, rose 6.8% to $64.4 billion, a figure that fell largely in-line with analysts' estimates.

Looking into the 2020 financial year, UnitedHealth maintained its earnings forecast of an adjusted bottom line of $16.25 to $16.55 per share 

"From the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, our singular priority has remained clear: the health, safety and support of the people and communities we serve, including our dedicated team of 325,000 people and the heroic members of the health care workforce, and the reliability and sustainability of health care delivery systems," said CEO Dave Wichmann.

UnitedHealth shares were marked 1.6% higher in early trading following the earnings release, against a 2.3% decline for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, to change hands at $275.64 each. 

Revenues at Optum, its pharmacy benefits management business, rose 24.2% to $32.8 billion while the division's bottom line rose 10.5% to $2.1 billion. OptumRx revenues were marked 21% higher at $21.6 billion for the full year, while OptumHealth sales surged 36.9% from last year to $9.2 billion.

UnitedHealth also said that Andrew Witty, who leads the group's Optum division, will take a leave of absence from the company to support the World Health Organization's new initiative for COVID-19 vaccine development. 

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