Cigna

(CI) - Get Report

, the nation's third-largest health insurer, posted a huge quarterly loss Friday and said it is under investigation by the

Securities and Exchange Commission

.

Despite the news, shares rose 1.27%, or 46 cents, to $36.60.

Cigna did not disclose why the SEC had opened an "informal inquiry"into the company, which comes just a week after the firm lowered earnings guidance for the third quarter and full year.

Cigna posted a net loss of $877 million, or $6.27 a share, in the latest quarter, compared with a profit of $270 million, or $1.81 a share, in the same period a year ago.

Excluding a $1.05 billion charge stemming mostly from its now defunct reinsurance business, the company posted a profit of $208 million, or $1.49 a share, down from $273 million, or $1.83 a share, last year.

Revenue rose 9.2% to $5.23 billion, from $4.78 billion.

Last week Cigna surprised investors by warning that it would not meet analysts' expectations. It projected a profit of $1.47 a share for the third quarter, down from an original estimate of $1.90 to $2.05. The firm also lowered its 2002 targets to between $6.50 and $6.75 a share, excluding items. The company had previously projected earnings of $7.85 to $8.15 a share for the full year.

Cigna expects 2003 operating income of $6.25 to $6.50 a share.