UPDATE 1-Community Health 4th-qtr profit meets estimates

Thu Feb 21, 2013 5:31pm EST

Feb 21 (Reuters) - Hospital operator Community Health Systems Inc reported higher fourth-quarter profit that matched analysts' estimates as admissions rose nearly 5 percent.

The second largest U.S. for-profit hospital chain also projected full-year 2013 earnings from continuing operations of $3.50 to $3.90 per share. Analysts, on average, had forecast 2013 earnings of $3.82, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Wayne Smith, the company's chairman, president and chief executive officer, said the results show the company's ability to deliver high quality healthcare services in a cost-effective manner.

"We are also encouraged by the more favorable volume trends in 2012 compared with the prior year," he said in a statement.

For the fourth quarter, Community Health said total admissions rose 4.7 percent compared with a year earlier, while adjusted admissions rose 6.4 percent.

An early and unusually intense flu season has pushed up business for hospitals, pharmacies and their suppliers.

A recent U.S. government analysis of this season's flu vaccine suggests it was effective in only 56 percent of people who got the shot, and it completely failed to protect the elderly against an especially deadly strain circulating during flu seasons.

Community Health, based in Franklin, Tennessee, posted quarterly net income attributable to shareholders of $62.6 million, or 69 cents a share, up from $30.9 million, or 35 cents a share, a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items, Community Health earned 85 cents share, matching the average analyst estimate.

Net operating revenue rose 9 percent to $3.3 billion.

Shares of Community Health, which closed at $41.50 on the New York Stock Exchange, were trading at $41.20 after hours.