HCA Healthcare shares surge after JPMorgan singles it out as tax cut play

Key Points
  • JPMorgan tells clients that if Republican tax cuts pass, HCA Healthcare could see 2019 consensus EPS jump 30 percent.
  • "HCA generates nearly 100% of its net income in the U.S. and pays a full U.S. corporate tax rate," said Gary Taylor in a note published Thursday.
  • Shares of HCA Healthcare closed more than 6 percent higher Thursday after Taylor's note.
  • Equities and Treasury yields both rose following news that Republican Sen. John McCain — previously a tax bill holdout — signaled support for the tax plan.
Rose Medical Center, an HCA facility in Denver, Colorado.
Matthew Staver | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Shares of HCA Healthcare closed more than 6 percent higher Thursday after JPMorgan research concluded that the company would "disproportionately benefit" from the Republican tax plan.

Should the GOP muster enough congressional support to lower the corporate tax rate to 20 percent as planned, JPMorgan analyst Gary Taylor believes HCA Healthcare could see nearly 20 percent upside over the next year.

"The currently proposed U.S. corporate tax reform would disproportionately benefit HCA within our universe on JPMorgan's relative performance rating methodology," wrote Taylor on Thursday. "HCA generates nearly 100% of its net income in the U.S. and pays a full U.S. corporate tax rate (this fact alone should drive a 23% increase in EPS if the U.S. corporate tax rate declines from 35% to 20%)."

The analyst increased his price target to $96 from $75, representing 20 percent upside from Wednesday's close.

If everything goes according to plan, HCA could see its current 2019 consensus EPS increase by 30 percent, from $8.06 to nearly $10.50 per share, Taylor added. But that may be a big "if."

Budgetary concerns from top Republican lawmakers (as well as fierce opposition from Democrats) still linger. As one of President Donald Trump's key campaign promises, the tax reform plan has been scrutinized by investors seeking to play the markets should the GOP cut the corporate tax rate to 20 percent. And with so much of HCA's income generated domestically, it may reap big gains if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell gets his way.

Tax reform hopefuls received welcome news Thursday as Republican Sen. John McCain — previously a holdout on the tax plan — said he would support the bill. Immediately following news of McCain's go-ahead, equities took yet another leg up, with the Dow Jones industrial average adding more than 300 points and smashing through 24,000 for the first time ever.

Yields matched the uptick in stocks as more and more investors grow convinced of tax reform success. The 10-year Treasury note yield — which has been trading in a tight 2.3 to 2.41 percent range for the entire month of November — jumped to 2.43 percent by midafternoon after a relatively lethargic morning.

With all Republican senators voting Wednesday to start debate in the full chamber, many expect a vote on the bill sometime Thursday afternoon. Should the tax bill pass the Senate within the next few days, stocks like HCA may move to confirm analyst Taylor's bullish hypothesis.

"HCA remains the bellwether hospital operator," explained Taylor. "We believe HCA controls leading inpatient market share in most of its markets and enjoys by far the highest average market share of for-profit hospital operators. This strong market positioning has and will likely continue to insulate HCA from the degree of rate and utilization pressures that other hospitals may face as the U.S. delivery system moves away from a fee-for service payment model over the coming years."