Community Health posts surprise profit as costs fall

(Reuters) - Hospital operator Community Health Systems Inc reported a surprise first-quarter profit on Tuesday, helped by lower operating costs.

The company’s shares rose about 7 pct to $4.25 in after-market trading. Total operating costs fell 21 percent to $3.48 billion.

Community Health decided to sell six of its hospitals in the quarter and said it is continuing with its divestiture plans to pay off long-term debt, which stood at $13.86 billion.

The company’s net loss attributable to shareholders narrowed to $25 million, or 22 cents per share, in the quarter ended March 31, from $199 million, or $1.79 per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, the hospital operator earned 13 cents per share, compared with analysts’ expectations of a loss of 22 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

On a same-store basis, hospital admissions in the quarter decreased 2.4 percent from a year earlier.

Net operating revenue fell to $3.69 billion from $4.49 billion.

Larger rival HCA Healthcare reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit and revenue on Tuesday due to an increase in admission of patients needing advanced care to its hospital.

Reporting by Mrinalini Krothapalli; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Arun Koyyur