UPDATE 2-HCA to acquire urgent-care provider, sets share buyback

(Adds company comments from conference call)

Oct 28 (Reuters) - HCA Holdings Inc, the largest U.S. hospital operator, on Tuesday announced a deal to acquire a Dallas-based provider of urgent-care services and said its board authorized the repurchase of up to $1 billion of its outstanding shares.

HCA, which previewed its third-quarter results earlier this month, also said its quarterly profit rose 42 percent from a year ago as it admitted more patients to its hospitals.

HCA said it was acquiring CareNow, a privately held operator of 24 urgent-care centers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

The acquisition of CareNow broadens HCA’s offerings in the Dallas market with urgent-care facilities that complement the company’s hospitals and surgery centers, said Sam Hazen, HCA’s president of operations.

Urgent-care centers are experiencing high demand from patients who like their convenience and accessibility, he said.

“We want to replicate that model in other markets,” Hazen said.

Nashville-based HCA operates 165 hospitals and 113 surgery centers in 20 states. With the CareNow acquisition, it will have 60 urgent-care centers in various markets.

HCA said admissions increased 2.8 percent in the quarter compared to the prior-year period at its facilities open at least one year.

Patient volumes were especially robust in states that opted to expand their Medicaid programs, company executives said.

But non-expansion states also saw admissions growth, suggesting macroeconomic conditions are improving, said Hazan. Lower unemployment rates are supporting growth in obstetrics and outpatient surgeries in particular.

HCA said its third-quarter net income rose to $518 million, or $1.16 a share, compared with $365 million, or 79 cents a share, a year ago. Revenue increased 9 percent to $9.22 billion.

It reiterated the higher 2014 outlook it gave two weeks ago for earnings excluding special items in a range of $4.40 to $4.60 a share on revenue of $36.5 billion to $37 billion.

HCA said its the number of its patients who purchased health insurance on exchanges set up under President Barack Obama’s health reform law continues to grow, but the growth is slowing and expected to moderate through the end of the year.

The company said it expects to complete the CareNow acquisition in the fourth quarter.

Shares of HCA were down 1.8 percent at $70.10 in morning trading. (Reporting by Susan Kelly in Chicago; Editing by W Simon and Nick Zieminski)