Centene reported better-than-expected quarterly revenue and profit on Tuesday, helped by growth in its Obamacare individual business and as the health insurer’s efforts to turn around recently acquired Health Net paid off.
Investors have increasingly focused on Health Net, which has weighed on the Centene’s results in the past few quarters.
Centene bought rival Health Net for $6.3 billion last year and set aside a reserve of $300 million related to Health Net’s operations in July.
Centene has benefited from the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act like other health insurers that focus on government-sponsored plans for the under-insured or uninsured.
Republicans and President Donald Trump have promised not to pull the rug out from under Americans who were newly insured under former President Barack Obama‘s healthcare reform law, even as they seek to “repeal and replace” the law as soon as possible.
“We believe Centene is the most undervalued growth name in the group and believe multiples will begin to expand as investors become more comfortable that contract growth and Medicaid expansion will continue despite repeal and replace,” Piper Jaffray analyst Sarah James said in a note.
Net earnings attributable to Centene rose to $261 million, or $1.49 per share, in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, from $111 million, or 90 cents per share, a year earlier.
Excluding items, the health insurer earned $1.19 per share, beating analysts’ average estimate of $1.11, according to Thomson Reuters.
Centene said total revenue rose 89 percent to $11.91 billion, ahead of analysts’ average estimate of $10.94 billion.
The company’s health benefits ratio, or the amount it spends on medical claims compared with its income from premiums, improved to 84.8 percent from 88 percent, as its Health Net business has a higher mix of commercial plans.
Centene, which reported lower-than-expected 2017 adjusted earnings in December, reaffirmed its forecast.
The company had cited lower margins on the Obamacare business as a result of the uncertainty created by the outcome of the presidential election.
Centene’s shares were up about 1 percent in light premarket trading. The company’s stock has fallen about 4 percent since the Nov. 8 election.