Health care insurer Cigna ( CI) posted a rise in first-quarter earnings as its employee benefits lines were strong.

The Philadelphia-based company had a net income of $236 million, or $1.68 a share, compared with earnings of $218 million, or $1.52 a share, in the prior-year quarter. Before certain items, the company earned $205 million, or $1.52 a share, compared with $275 million, or $1.92 a share. From continuing operations, it earned $1.46 cents a share, 4 cents better than analysts' forecasts.

"Results for the quarter reflect solid execution on key initiatives in our health care operations and strong performance in our other employee benefits businesses," said Chief Executive H. Edward Hanway.

Total revenue was $4.9 billion, compared with last year's $4.78 billion.

Shares of the company closed at $53.65 Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange.

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