UnitedHealth Tops Q2 Earnings Forecast As Elective Payouts Slump; Repeats 2020 Profit Guidance

UnitedHealth said its risk-based business saw an 'unprecedented' period of payment deferrals as elective surgeries and treatments were postponed or cancelled during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic.

UnitedHealth Group Inc.  (UNH) - Get Report posted stronger-than-expected second quarter earnings Wednesday, and reiterated its full-year profit guidance, as the health insurer benefited from fewer payouts during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic.

UnitedHealth said adjusted earnings for the three months ending in June were pegged at $7.12 per share, up more than double last year's levels and well ahead of the Street consensus forecast of $5.28 per share. Group revenues, UnitedHealth said, jumped $1.5 billion from last year to $62.1 billion.

Looking into the second half of the year, UnitedHealth said it sees 2020 adjusted profits of between $16.25 to $16.55 per share, a figure that matched its earlier forecast. 

“Our 325,000 dedicated team members, including the 120,000 clinicians serving on the front lines of care, have tirelessly responded to COVID-19 with agility, innovation and compassion,” said CEO David Wichmann. “We moved swiftly to assist the people we serve and their care providers, including the provision of $3.5 billion in proactive voluntary customer assistance and accelerated care provider funding." 

"We remain committed to taking further actions to address any future imbalances as a result of the pandemic,” he added.  

UnitedHealth shares were marked 1.9% lower in early trading immediately following the earnings release to change hands at $303.30 each.

UnitedHealth said second quarter earnings were "substantially higher than anticipated due primarily to the unprecedented, temporary deferral of care in the Company’s risk-based businesses," noting that the company expects that will be offset in the second half of the year "by the assistance measures already taken, the resumption of deferred care and future COVID-19 cost and economic impacts."  

Revenues at Optum, its pharmacy benefits management business, rose 16.8% to $32.7 billion while the division's bottom line rose 4.75% to $2.1 billion.