Cigna first-quarter profit beats expectations

Thu May 2, 2013 7:23am EDT

(Reuters) - Cigna Corp (CI.N) on Thursday reported higher-than-expected quarterly earnings that benefited from the insurer's acquisition of Medicare specialist HealthSpring and international growth, particularly in South Korea.

Competitors, including UnitedHealth Group Inc (UNH.N), WellPoint Inc (WLP.N) and Aetna Inc (AET.N), have also posted stronger-than-expected quarterly profits, citing Americans' low use of medical services.

Cigna's first-quarter net income fell to $57 million, or 20 cents per share, from $371 million, or $1.28 per share, a year earlier.

The results included a previously announced $507 million charge for a February deal with Berkshire Hathaway Inc (BRKa.N), which will reinsure two of Cigna's closed annuity reinsurance businesses and take risk off of the company's balance sheet.

Excluding that charge and other items, earnings were $497 million, or $1.72 per share, up from $359 million, or $1.24 per share, a year earlier.

On that basis, analysts were expecting $1.43 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Cigna administers health insurance benefits for companies in the United State and overseas; sells health, life, disability and accident insurance; and offers Medicare and Medicaid plans.

The company raised its 2013 outlook to a range of $6.00 to $6.45 per share from its February forecast of $5.85 to $6.25 in earnings - also a raised projection. Analysts expect profit of $6.35 per share this year.

(Reporting by Caroline Humer; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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