July 31, 2012 / 10:54 AM / 6 years ago

Aetna profit beats estimates; full-year forecast raised

(Reuters) - Aetna Inc AET.N, the third-largest U.S. health insurer, posted weaker quarterly earnings on Tuesday as expenses rose, but the results were still higher than analysts had expected.

Aetna also raised its full-year earnings forecast to a range of $5.00 to $5.10 per share, excluding items.

Susquehanna Financial Group analyst Chris Rigg attributed the stronger-than-expected results mostly to higher underwriting margins, especially in the Medicare segment.

The company also was active in stock repurchases, so the share count was lower, he noted.

Second-quarter net earnings were $457.6 million, or $1.32 per share, compared with $536.7 million, or $1.39 per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, earnings were $1.31 per share. On that basis, analysts on average were expecting $1.25, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Quarterly revenue rose to $8.83 billion from $8.32 billion, helped by higher premiums from the company’s Medicare and commercial healthcare businesses.

Aetna shares closed at $36.67 on Monday on the New York Stock Exchange.

Reporting by Debra Sherman in Chicago and Esha Dey in Bangalore; Editing by Supriya Kurane and Lisa Von Ahn

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