UPDATE 2-HCA sees stronger patient volumes in fourth quarter
* Q4 EPS 92 cents ex legal costs tops view 82 cents
* Admissions to hospitals owned at least yr up 4.3 pct
* Emergency room visits jump 12.7 percent
* Shares climb 2 percent in early NYSE trading
Feb 5 (Reuters) - HCA Holdings Inc, the largest U.S. for-profit hospital operator, reported lower quarterly net earnings due to costs to settle legal claims, but treated more patients, lifting the shares 3 percent in early Tuesday trading.
Excluding special items, earnings exceeded expectations on stronger-than-expected patient volumes, which analysts said may have been due to more flu illnesses.
Net income fell to $314 million, or 68 cents per share, from $1.94 billion, or $4.25 a share, a year earlier, when one-time gains from facilities sales and an investment boosted earnings.
Excluding legal expenses in the latest quarter, Nashville, Tennessee-based HCA reported earnings of 92 cents per share.
Analysts, on average, expected 82 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization fell 2 percent to $1.61 billion.
Revenue increased 8.5 percent to $8.43 billion in the quarter.
Admissions to hospitals operated at least one year rose 4.3 percent. Admissions to facilities operated for at least a year, combined with outpatient volumes, increased 5 percent. Emergency room visits jumped 12.7 percent.
HCA expects 2013 earnings, excluding items, in a range of $3.00 to $3.30 per share, on revenue of $33.5 billion to $34.5 billion.
Shares of HCA rose 2.2 percent to $38.42 Tuesday morning on the New York Stock Exchange.