UnitedHealth boosts 2019 profit view on strength in insurance, pharmacy benefits

UnitedHealth Group Inc beat estimates for quarterly profit and raised its 2019 earnings forecast on Thursday, buoyed by strength in the largest U.S. health insurer's pharmacy benefits management business and its insurance plans.

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The company is the first health insurer to report quarterly results after the Trump administration last week nixed an ambitious proposal that would have required health insurers to pass billions of dollars in rebates they receive from drugmakers to Medicare patients.

Sales in UnitedHealth's main business of selling health insurance plans rose nearly 6 percent to $48.59 billion in the second quarter.

Revenue from the Optum unit, which manages prescription drug benefits and offers healthcare data analytics services, rose 13.4 percent to $28.03 billion.

The company raised its full-year adjusted earnings forecast to between $14.70 and $14.90 per share, from an earlier forecast of between $14.50 and $14.75 per share.

Net earnings attributable to shareholders rose to $3.29 billion, or $3.42 per share, in the three months ended June 30, from $2.92 billion, or $2.98 per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, UnitedHealth earned $3.60 per share, beating the average analyst estimate of $3.45, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Total revenue rose 8 percent to $60.60 billion, topping estimates of $60.55 billion.

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Shares of the industry bellwether rose 1.7 percent to $271.15 in light premarket trading.

(Reporting by Tamara Mathias in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)