February 20, 2014 / 10:45 PM / in 4 years

UPDATE 1-Express Scripts sees long-term earnings growth of up to 20 pct

Feb 20 (Reuters) - Pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts Holding Co on Thursday forecast 2014 earnings in line with Wall Street expectations and said it sees long-term earnings growth of up to 20 percent per year.

The company reported fourth quarter profit that matched analysts’ estimates.

“Based on assumptions regarding healthcare trends, industry positioning and the overall environment, the company is targeting annual earnings per share growth of 10 per cent to 20 per cent for the next several years,” St Louis-based Express said in a release announcing its quarterly results.

The company said it was well positioned to gain market share as well as benefit from the growth of home delivery and specialty drugs and from healthcare reform that will place a premium on lowering costs.

Pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs, administer drug benefits for employers and health plans and also run large mail order pharmacies.

For 2014, Express forecast adjusted earnings of $4.88 to $5 per share, giving the company room to exceed analysts’ current average estimates of $4.93 per share.

The company reported net income of $506 million, or 63 cents per share, compared with a profit of $511 million, or 61 cents per share, a year ago.

Excluding items, the company had adjusted earnings of $1.12 per share. Analysts on average were expecting $1.12, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue for the quarter of $25.78 billion topped Wall Street estimates of $25.36 billion.

Overall use of generic drugs for the quarter edged up to 80.9 percent from 79.8 percent a year earlier. Increased use of generic medicines cut healthcare costs of PBM customers and add to Express Scripts’ bottom line.

Express Scripts shares fell to $75 in extended trading from a Nasdaq close at $77.12. The stock had been on a roll, with shares up about 10 percent so far this year and by more than 25 percent over the past four months.

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