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UnitedHealth Tops Q4 Profit Forecast as Optum Sales Impress

UnitedHealth beat Street forecasts for its fourth quarter earnings report Wednesday as Optum sales hit $113 billion for the 2019 year.

UnitedHealth Group Inc.  (UNH) - Get UnitedHealth Group Incorporated Report posted stronger-than-expected fourth quarter earnings Tuesday, and reiterated its full-year profit forecasts as Optum sales once again paced growth for the country's biggest managed care company. 

UnitedHealth said adjusted earnings for the three months ending in December came in at $3.90 per share, up 19% from the same period last year and firmly ahead of the Street consensus forecast of $3.68 per share. Group revenues, the company said, rose 4.24% to $60.9 billion, just shy of analysts' forecasts of a $61 billion tally.

Looking into 2020, UnitedHealth said it sees full year adjusted earnings in the region of $16.25 to $16.55 per share, a figure it revealed at an investor conference last month. 

“The dedicated women and men of UnitedHealth Group work together each day to improve outcomes and the patient and physician experience, while making health care more affordable, enabling us to serve more people better, while positioning us for continued growth in 2020,” said CEO David Wichmann,  

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UnitedHealth shares were marked 1.6% higher following the earnings release to change hands at $293.25 each, a move that extends the stock's six-month gain to around 10.3%.

Revenues at Optum, its pharmacy benefits management business, rose 8% to $29.8 billion while the division's bottom line rose 11.1% to $3 billion. OptumRx revenues were marked 6.8% higher at $74.3 billion for the full year, while OptumHealth sales surged 25.6% for the year to $30.3 billion.

Wichmann said last month that Optum will likely account for around half of the company's operating earnings this year, up from just 26% in 2013, making UnitedHealth a "undamentally different company than the commercial insurance company I joined."