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UnitedHealth Group profit down, revenue up

UnitedHealth Group, based in Minnetonka, met profit expectations and exceeded revenue expectations when it reported quarterly earnings before the bell this morning.

The health insurer said its fourth-quarter profit fell 40 percent, compared with last year, as it settled a lawsuit and dealt with rising expenses. The health insurer reported net income of $726 million, or 60 cents per share, compared with $1.22 billion, or 92 cents per share, from the same quarter last year.

But revenue rose 9 percent to $20.45 billion from $18.71 billion.

UnitedHealth’s adjusted profit of 78 cents per share matched expectations of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters, and its revenue surpassed analyst expectations of $20.4 billion.

Analysts seemed to like it. Matthew Borsch of Goldman Sachs says in a research note that the results “bolster our positive view of the turnaround” at UnitedHealth. He holds a “Buy” rating on the stock.

Earnings were affected by a charge of 18 cents per share to resolve a class-action lawsuit over out-of-network medical services. The insurer said last week it would pay $350 million to settle the litigation, which focused on pricing databases operated by its Ingenix subsidiary.

The company repurchased 8 million shares of stock during the quarter as part of an ongoing program. Medical enrollment dropped by 125,000 people in the fourth quarter but rose by 800,000 people to 26 million during the full year.

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