April 29, 2013 / 8:36 PM / 7 years ago

UPDATE 2-Express Scripts profit tops Wall St view, ups forecast

* First-quarter adjusted EPS $0.99 vs Street view $0.97

* Revenue $26.06 billion

* Shares rise 1.5 percent after hours

By Bill Berkrot

April 29 (Reuters) - Express Scripts Holding Co on Monday reported higher-than-expected first-quarter earnings, helped by greater use of more profitable generic medicines, and the pharmacy benefit manager raised its full-year forecast.

Express said it expects improvements in gross profit over the remainder of the year and now sees full-year adjusted earnings of $4.23 to $4.33 per share, up from its prior outlook of $4.20 to $4.30 per share. Its shares rose 1.5 percent in after-hours trade.

For the second quarter, the company said it expects adjusted earnings from continuing operations of $1.08 to $1.12 per share.

Analysts on average are looking for 2013 earnings of $4.26 per share and second-quarter earnings of $1.04 per share, excluding items.

The company posted a profit from continuing operations of $374 million, or 45 cents per share, compared with a profit of $270.2 million, or 55 cents per share, a year ago.

Excluding items, Express earned 99 cents per share, topping analysts’ average expectations by 2 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

“Most of the beat probably came from very good cost management” following the Medco deal, said ISI Group analyst Ross Muken. Express Scripts closed its major acquisition of rival Medco Health Solutions in the second quarter of last year.

The use of cheaper generic medicines, which have a higher profit margin than more expensive branded drugs, rose to 80.5 percent from 76.5 percent in the year-ago quarter.

Express Scripts and other pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs, administer drug benefits for employers and health plans and also run large mail order pharmacies. Increased use of generics cuts healthcare costs of PBM customers and helps the Express Scripts bottom line.

The company reported first-quarter revenue of $26.06 billion, exceeding Wall Street estimates of $25.48 billion.

Adjusted claims for the quarter doubled to 390 million with the addition of Medco.

Muken said he does not expect a major stock boost from the modest forecast increase. “It will probably be business as usual until we see how the 2014 selling season plays out,” he said.

Express Scripts shares rose to $59.31 in extended trading from their Nasdaq close at $58.44.

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