3 Min Read
* Q4 earnings more than double to $261 mln
* Q4 revenue jumps 89 pct to $11.91 bln
* Shares rise as much as 8.25 pct (Adds conference call comments, updates shares)
By Ankur Banerjee
Feb 7 (Reuters) - Centene Corp reported quarterly revenue and profit ahead of analysts' estimates, helped by growth in its Obamacare individual business and as the health insurer's efforts to turn around recently acquired Health Net paid off.
Centene's shares, which have fallen about 4 percent since the U.S. presidential election on Nov. 8, rose 8.25 percent to $68.88 in morning trading on Tuesday.
The company has benefited from the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act like other health insurers that focus on government-sponsored plans for the under-insured or uninsured.
Republicans and President Donald Trump have promised not to pull the rug out from under Americans who were newly insured under former President Barack Obama's healthcare reform law, even as they seek to "repeal and replace" the law as soon as possible.
"Early indications suggest if the ACA is completely repealed and replaced the process may take several years and include a transition plan designed to minimize, if any, disruption to states or subsidized populations," Centene's Chief Executive Michael Neidorff said on a conference call.
Centene, which had 537,200 members in its individual plans, said it continues to expect its Obamacare individual plans to be profitable this year.
The health insurer said it had 11.4 million members as of Dec. 31, an increase of 6.3 million.
We believe Centene is the most undervalued growth name in the group and multiples will begin to expand as investors become more comfortable that contract growth and Medicaid expansion will continue despite repeal and replace, Piper Jaffray analyst Sarah James wrote in a client note.
Investors have increasingly focused on Health Net, which has weighed on Centene's results in the past few quarters.
St. Louis, Missouri-based Centene bought rival Health Net for $6.30 billion last year and set aside a reserve of $300 million related to Health Net's operations in July.
Net earnings attributable to Centene more than doubled to $261 million, or $1.49 per share, in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31.
Excluding items, the health insurer earned $1.19 per share, beating analysts' average estimate of $1.11, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Total revenue nearly doubled to $11.91 billion, ahead of analysts' average estimate of $10.94 billion.
Centene, which reported lower-than-expected 2017 adjusted earnings in December, reaffirmed its forecast. (bit.ly/2gOWsSI)
The company had cited lower margins on the Obamacare business as a result of the uncertainty created by the outcome of the election.
Reporting by Ankur Banerjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Martina D'Couto