Aetna (AET) released stronger-than-expected fourth-quarter results, issued bullish 2011 guidance and sharply boosted its dividend on Friday, sparking a 12% surge in its stock.
The Hartford-based health-care company said it earned $215.6 million, or 53 cents a share, compared with a profit of $165.9 million, or 38 cents a share, a year earlier. Excluding one-time items, it earned 63 cents a share, beating the Street by a penny.
Revenue dipped 2% to $8.54 billion.
"I am confident that we are well-positioned with the right management team and long-term strategy to capitalize on the domestic and global opportunities in health care," CEO Mark Bertolini said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Aetna also hiked its quarterly dividend to 15 cents a share, well above its previous payout of just 4 cents a year.
Shareholders cheered the developments, sending Aetna's stock surging 12.2% to $37.33 ahead of Friday's open. The stock had already been up just over 9% in 2011.