Community Health posts smaller-than-expected loss

(Reuters) - Community Health Systems Inc CYH.N reported a smaller-than-expected fourth-quarter loss on Tuesday amid efforts by the hospital operator to pare its debt by selling some of its assets.

The company sold 30 hospitals in 2017 and said it is continuing with its divestiture plans to pay off long-term debt of $13.90 billion as of Sept. 30.

Hospital operators have been struggling over the past year as soaring out-of-pocket costs have contributed to weak patient admissions.

On a same-store basis, admissions in the quarter decreased 1.7 percent from a year earlier.

Net operating revenue fell nearly 32 percent to $3.06 billion, mainly due to a $591 million rise in contractual allowances and provision for bad debts.

Net loss attributable to the company widened to $2.01 billion, or $17.98 per share, in the quarter ended Dec. 31, from $220 million, or $1.99 per share, a year earlier.

The company took an asset write-down charge of $1.76 billion in the reporting quarter.

Excluding items, the company posted a loss of 25 cents per share.

Analysts on average were expecting a loss of 34 cents on a revenue of $3.53 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Shares of the company fell nearly 8 percent to $5.70 after the bell.

Reporting by Tamara Mathias in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur