* Shares rise as earnings beat estimates
* $50 mln in charges for severance
Nov 1 (Reuters) - Health insurer Cigna Corp's quarterly profit more than doubled as its acquisition of Medicare specialist HealthSpring drove growth in premiums and fees, prompting the company to raise its full-year profit outlook for the third time this year.
Premium and fees revenue at its healthcare segment jumped 51 percent, driven by contributions from HealthSpring, which Cigna acquired for $3.8 billion earlier this year as well as growth in its commercial business.
Cigna shares rose $1.67 to $52.67 in morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
Health insurers are facing a healthcare overhaul as the government tries to rein in reimbursements, and have been on an aggressive acquisition spree to gain scale and market share.
Recent big deals include UnitedHealth Group Inc's $4.9 billion buy of a majority stake in Brazilian health insurer Amil Participacoes SA and Aetna Inc's takeover of Coventry Health Care Inc for $5.6 billion.
The strong healthcare growth contributed to Cigna's surpassing quarterly profit expectations.
``The beat was primarily driven by the healthcare segment ($384M vs. $324M expectation), which also drove Cigna to raise FY2012 guidance,'' Oppenheimer analyst Michael Wiederhorn wrote in a research note.
Cigna's total third-quarter revenue rose 31 percent to $7.4 billion. Revenue at its international segment rose 22 percent, and disability and life segment revenue increased 9 percent.
The insurer now expects full-year adjusted earnings of $5.70 to $5.90 per share, up from its prior forecast of $5.25 to $5.60 per share in August.
Chief Executive Office David Cordani said during a conference call that he expects ``continuing economic headwinds'' in 2013 and that to manage costs, the company is taking a $50 million charge for severance.
The company's strong results follow the market-topping profits posted by rivals UnitedHealth and Aetna last month.
Third-quarter net income rose to $466 million, or $1.61 per share, in the third quarter, from $183 million, or 67 cents per share, a year earlier.
Excluding items, the company earned $1.69 per share, handily beating analysts' estimates of $1.36, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Those third-quarter 2012 items include the charge related to severance as well as a charge related to the acquisition of HealthSpring.
Shares of Cigna, which has a market capitalization of $14.71 billion, closed at $51 on Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange.