Cigna tops profit estimates and gives an upbeat 2018 forecast

  • Cigna's fourth-quarter profit beat analysts' expectations, helped by higher enrollment.
  • The health insurer also forecast 2018 earnings above Wall Street estimates.
  • Cigna's membership at the end of 2017 totaled 15.9 million, an increase of more than 700,000 customers.
David Cordani, CEO of Cigna
Scott Eells | Bloomberg | Getty Images
David Cordani, CEO of Cigna

U.S. health insurer Cigna's fourth-quarter profit beat analysts' expectations on Thursday on higher enrollment and the company forecast 2018 earnings above Wall Street estimates.

Cigna joined other health insurers, such as UnitedHealth and Anthem, in reporting a strong quarter and an upbeat forecast thanks to the recent U.S. tax changes.

Cigna's membership at the end of 2017 totaled 15.9 million, an increase of more than 700,000 customers, driven by strong growth across commercial market units.

The company focuses on large and medium-sized corporate healthcare and sells international insurance as well as government-backed Medicare plans.

The results come after Amazon, JPMorgan Chase, and Berkshire Hathaway said on Tuesday they would join hands to cut health-care costs for employees, weighing on many healthcare stocks.

Cigna said it expects adjusted income of $12.40 to $12.90 per share in 2018, ahead of analysts' estimate of $12.20, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The insurer expects 2018 revenue to grow 7 percent to 8 percent.

Net income fell to $266 million, or $1.07 per share, in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, from $382 million, or $1.47 per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, Cigna earned $1.94 per share, beating analysts' estimate of $1.89.

Operating revenue increased 6 percent to $10.51 billion, just above analysts' expectation of $10.31 billion.

Cigna said total commercial medical care ratio came in at 84.3 percent, reflecting strong performance and effective medical cost management in its employer business.

Medical loss ratio is the amount an insurer spends on medical claims compared with income from premiums.