Express Scripts Widens 4Q Profit, Revenue Disappoints

Express Scripts (NASDAQ:ESRX) revealed late Tuesday a stronger-than-expected 47% increase in fourth-quarter profit, fueled by higher sales and milder expenses, though traders booed the worse-than-expected revenue, sending its shares lower after hours.

The St. Louis, Mo.-based company posted net income of $329.6 million, or 62 cents a share, compared with $223.3 million, or 40 cents a share, in the same quarter last year.

Excluding one-time integration costs, the company earned 71 cents a share, narrowly ahead of average analyst estimates polled by Thomson Reuters of 70 cents.

Revenue for the provider of a range of pharmacy benefit management services was $11.3 billion, up from $8.2 billion a year ago, falling just short of the Street’s view of $11.52 billion.

George Paz , Express Scripts’ chief executive, called 2010 a “transformational year,” highlighting the company’s completion of the NextRx membership migration to its systems. The company plans on decommissioning the NextRx systems in the first-quarter of this year.

“Our strong fourth quarter and full year results demonstrate our ability to successfully execute our business model of alignment that optimizes health outcomes while driving out waste,” he said.

During the quarter, Express Scripts booked an increase in claims, driven by its network segment, and lifted its overall fill rate to 72.1% from 69.1% in the year-earlier period.

Paz said the company is well-positioned to take advantage of growth opportunities in the future, particularly as it continues narrowing expenses. Express Scripts reaffirmed its earlier 2011 earnings in the range of $3.15 to $3.23 a share.