WellPoint Earnings Surge

WellPoint's ( WLP) earnings rose 164% from a year ago and beat analysts' estimates as the company's November 2004 acquisition by Anthem continued to yield scale.

The health insurer earned $640.7 million, or $1.02 a share, in the quarter, compared with $242.1 million, or 85 cents a share, a year ago. Revenue rose 135.2% from a year ago to $11.30 billion. Analysts were forecasting earnings of $1.01 a share on sales of $11.38 billion.

WellPoint benefited from a swelling customer count. On a comparable basis, medical enrollment rose 5.6% from a year ago, with growth "in every region and across all lines of business." In the third quarter, WellPoint added 145,000 new members.

For all of 2005, WellPoint now expects to earn $3.99 a share before items, up from a previous estimate of $3.97 a share. Operating revenue should be $44.5 billion. Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call were forecasting earnings of $3.99 a share on sales of $45.12 billion.

Looking at 2006, WellPoint said it's "committed to its goal of achieving 15% growth in net income per share."

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