Weighed down by costs associated with its pending megadeal with rival Aetna (AET) , Humana (HUM) - Get Report posted a 46% drop in first-quarter profit on Wednesday, while suggesting it might exit some of its Obamacare individual products.
The health insurance giant posted earnings per share of $1.56 for the period ended March 31, about 46% less than the $2.82 per share it generated during the corresponding period a year earlier. The company attributed 21 cents per share, or $34 million, worth of transaction and integration costs associated with its pending transaction with Aetna.
Not including charges related to Aetna and additional amortIzation costs, adjusted EPS for the quarter was $1.86, down 28% from $2.58 a year ago. In that sense, the company managed to top an average analyst estimate for adjusted EPS of about $1.82, according to Bloomberg data.
The company's adjusted EPS guidance of at least $8.85 for the full-year remained unchanged.
Consolidated revenue remained relatively flat at $13.8 billion, declining less than 1% from $13.83 billion a year ago.
Louisville, Ky.-based Humana, which agreed to a $37 billion deal with fellow insurer Aetna in July, said it completed its submission to the Department of Justice during the first quarter.
The Humana-Aetna tie-up comes as Anthem (ANTM) - Get Report $54 billion bid for Cigna (CI) - Get Report remains pending. The number of major health insurance providers in the U.S. would be reduced to three, from five, should the two mergers go through.
"I view them as key, positive tactical moves," said Morningstar analyst Vishnu Lekraj by phone.
"If you can double membership at the same cost-basis, it's going to be better for these companies," Lekraj said. "They need to be more efficient and centralized on cost."
The continued pressure to the gross profit industry-wide, fueled by increasing competition as consumers have more power to compare available health plans plus additional implications of the Affordable Care Act, continue to support the strategic rationales of the pending health insurance transactions, Lekraj said.
Humana, which did not host a conference call with investors on Wednesday, said it expects its pending transaction with Aetna to close in the second half of the year.
"It remains to be seen what the outcome of the regulatory process will be," added FBR & Co. analyst Steven Halper in a Wednesday note. "The continued discount in HUM shares, compared to the implied acquisition price, means there remains significant investor skepticism. It remains to be seen what/if any impact the regulatory process will have on the merger."
Meanwhile the company hinted that Obamacare "product exits" may be on the horizon.
"Humana anticipates proposing a number of changes to retain a viable product for individual consumers, where feasible, and address persistent risk selection challenges," the company said. "Such changes may include certain statewide market and product exits both on and off exchange, service area reductions and pricing commensurate with anticipated levels of risk by state."
Like other health insurers, the company's Affordable Care Act-compliant individual commercial business have been a challenge. Humana said Wednesday it continues to anticipate a loss associated with the business for the full year.
In its latest quarter individual membership for the exchanges fell by 21% to 875,700, from 1,108,900 a year ago.
As for Humana's comments about its Obamacare plans, Lekraj said it may make sense to be cautious toward the market until it matures and becomes more diversified in terms of enrollment age and health. But he also noted that it might not matter.
"At the end of the day, Humana is getting acquired by Aetna," Lekraj said. "All of this could be moot."
UnitedHealth (UNH) - Get Report recently revealed it would withdraw from most of its Obamacare exchange markets by 2017 after losses in the business continued to hurt performance. Although the company's decision to participate less in the exchanges is viewed as likely to drive up its share price in the near term, it could prove negative from a long-term perspective once the model matures.
Humana shares, listed on the New York Stock Exchange, were down .79% to $175.46 in afternoon trading.