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UnitedHealth Group Beats Earnings Forecast, Lifts 2021 Guidance

Optum powered solid earnings for UnitedHealth, with the division's revenues rising 17.2% to $38.3 billion.

UnitedHealth Group  (UNH) - Get Report posted stronger-than-expected first-quarter earnings Thursday, and raised its full year profit forecast, as pandemic-delayed medical procedures boosted fees for the country's biggest health care insurance company.

UnitedHealth said adjusted profits for the three months ended in June came in at $4.70 a share, down 33% from the same period last year but well ahead of the Wall Street consensus forecast of $4.43 a share. Group revenue, UnitedHealth said, rose 15% to $71.3 billion, again topping analysts' estimates of a $69.45 billion tally, while Optum revenue rose 17.2% to $38.3 billion.

UnitedHealth also lifted its 2021 profit forecast, which it last published in early April, and now said it sees a range for adjusted earnings of between $18.30 and $18.80 per share, with revenue maintained in the region of $277 billion to $280 billion for the full year. 

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"The compassion, dedication and ongoing efforts of our 330,000 colleagues to advance peoples' health and health system performance reinforces our confidence in delivering strongly on our strategies for those we serve and continuing to grow well into the future," said CEO Chris Witty.  

UnitedHealth shares were marked 1.3% higher in pre-market trading immediately following the earnings release to indicate an opening bell price of $420 each, a move that would extend the stock's year-to-date gain to around 19.8%.

UnitedHealth noted that is 2021 outlook "continues to include approximately $1.80 per share in potential net unfavorable impact to accommodate continuing COVID-19 effects, such as: testing and treatment costs; the residual impact of people having deferred care in 2020; and unemployment and other economy-driven factors."