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Health insurer Aetna's 4Q profit jumps 94 percent

Published: Thursday, Feb. 6 2014 6:53 a.m. MST

This Jan. 30, 2012 file photo, shows an Aetna benefits card in Surfside, Fla. Aetna reports quarterly earnings on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014.

Wilfredo Lee, Associated Press

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Aetna Inc.'s fourth-quarter profit nearly doubled, thanks in part to a $6.9 billion acquisition, but the nation's third largest health insurer missed Wall Street's earnings expectations.

The Hartford, Conn., company also reaffirmed a 2014 forecast for earnings that could fall below analyst predictions.

Aetna completed a deal to buy Medicare and Medicaid coverage provider Coventry Health Care in May. The biggest acquisition in the company's history helped boost both its enrollment and premiums in the final quarter of 2013. The acquisition builds Aetna's presence in the state- and federally-funded Medicaid program that covers poor and disabled people and in the federally backed Medicare program for the elderly.

The insurer's enrollment climbed about 22 percent to 22.2 million people in the fourth quarter compared to the final quarter of 2012. That total puts it behind only UnitedHealth Group Inc. and WellPoint Inc. in terms of size. Health insurance is Aetna's main product, but it also sells dental, group life and disability coverage.

Overall, Aetna earned $368.9 million, or $1 per share, in the quarter that ended Dec. 31. That's up from $190.1 million, or 56 cents per share, a year ago.

Earnings excluding one-time items totaled $1.34 per share. Analysts surveyed by FactSet forecast earnings of $1.36 per share.

Revenue excluding capital gains soared 47 percent to $13.13 billion. Analysts expected $13.12 billion in revenue.

Aetna said it still expects 2014 adjusted earnings of at least $6.25 per share. Analysts forecast, on average $6.32 per share.

Its shares finished at $68.27 per share on Wednesday. Its shares are up more than 37 percent since a year ago.

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