UnitedHealth ups forecast after strong start to year

UnitedHealth profits jumped about 44% in the first quarter and the nation’s largest health insurer boosted its outlook for the year.

The company said Thursday that the performance of its Optum division was particularly strong.

UnitedHealth raised its full year profit forecast to adjusted earnings of $18.10 to $18.60 per share, up from an outlook of $17.75 to $18.25 per share that it debuted in December.

The new range mostly tops the average analyst forecast of $18.19 per share, according to FactSet.

That projection includes a potential downside per-share of $1.80 due to the continuing influence of the pandemic.

Insurers like UnitedHealthcare saw health are use rebound toward the end of 2020 after the COVID-19 pandemic kept people away from doctor offices and surgery centers when it first spread earlier last year.

Plus the company’s commercial health insurance enrollment also has been hit by high unemployment during the pandemic.

UnitedHealth Group Inc. posted quarterly earnings of $4.86 billion, or $5.08 per share. Earnings, adjusted for amortization costs, were $5.31 per share, easily topping Wall Street’s per-share expectations of $4.42, according to a survey by Zacks Investment Research.

The Minnetonka, Minnesota, company posted revenue of $70.2 billion, and that too topped projections.

Shares are up slightly before the opening bell Thursday.