UnitedHealth Elevates President Andrew Witty to CEO

Health-services giant UnitedHealth names its president, Sir Andrew Witty, chief executive, succeeding David Wichmann, who is retiring.

Health-services giant UnitedHealth Group  (UNH) - Get Report Thursday named its president, Sir Andrew Witty, to the post of chief executive, succeeding David Wichmann, who is retiring.

The Minnetonka, Minn., company also said Witty; Dirk McMahon, the new president and chief operating officer, and Chief Financial Officer John Rex will make up a new chief executive office.

From 2008 to 2017, Witty was CEO of pharmaceutical titan GlaxoSmithKline  (GSK) - Get Report.

Wichmann had been UnitedHealth's CEO since 2017.

“Andrew Witty combines an extraordinary breadth and depth of health care experience, sophisticated strategic thinking and outstanding leadership development skills, making him uniquely well-positioned to help the company take the next steps,” said Stephen Hemsley, chairman of UNH.

UnitedHealth shares recently traded at $339, up 0.3%. They'd gained 11% over the six months through Wednesday, trailing the S&P 500’s 16% gain, as the covid pandemic has dented earnings.

Morningstar analyst Julie Utterback puts fair value for UnitedHealth at $329. 

She noted that in its fourth-quarter earnings report last month, “the company maintained its adjusted [earnings per share] guidance for 2021 but continued to highlight potential constraints of $1.80 based on the covid-related health and economic effects.”

As a result, she said, “while our estimate for adjusted earnings per share will likely remain within the company's target range for 2021 ($17.75-$18.25), we recognize that there may be upside potential if those effects are not as severe as currently expected.”

Further, “The company's integrated strategy has resulted in some of the best returns in the industry in recent years,” Utterback said.