October 27, 2017 / 11:07 AM / in a year

LifePoint Health slashes forecast; shares fall

(Reuters) - Fewer patient admissions and lower margins from recently acquired hospitals weighed on hospital operator LifePoint Health Inc as it slashed its annual revenue and profit forecasts, sending its shares down more than 10 percent.

Weak patient admissions that plagued U.S. hospital operators in the June quarter is expected to persist through 2018, with patients fretting about soaring out-of-pocket costs and the future of Obamacare remains uncertain.

Hospital operators had benefited from the expanded insurance coverage under former President Barack Obama’s signature Affordable Care Act, but Republicans’ efforts to dismantle it has weighed on the companies’ shares.

LifePoint said the margins of the four hospitals it acquired last year came in below its expectations.

“LPNT’s latest results continue its disappointing pattern of the past 10 years, with recent acquisitions weighing on margins, which in 3Q17 are among the worst it has reported since at least 2008,” Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Joseph France said in a client note.

Brentwood, Tennessee-based LifePoint, which operates 72 hospitals, said its equivalent admissions fell 2.18 percent in the quarter ended Sept. 30.

Equivalent admissions include patients who stay overnight in the hospital as well as those treated on an outpatient basis.

“We see long-term compression of volumes, especially inpatient, coupled with shifts in mix to lower margin payers, even as acuity rises,” Mizuho analyst Sheryl Skolnick said.

The company lowered its full-year forecast for adjusted earnings to $3.48 to $3.78 per share from $3.92 to $4.20.

LifePoint, which has also been selling assets to reduce its debt pile, slashed its full-year revenue forecast to $6.34 billion to $6.39 billion from $6.43 billion to $6.5 billion.

Chief Executive William Carpenter remained optimistic, saying the acquired hospitals will require more time to integrate. “They represent the greatest opportunity for margin improvement across the portfolio.”

Excluding one-time items, the company earned 80 cents per share, missing the average analyst estimate of 96 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Net income attributable to LifePoint fell to $27.5 million or 67 cents per share, from $39.5 million or 92 cents per share, a year earlier.

LifePoint’s revenue fell 0.6 percent to $1.58 billion, below the average estimate of $1.60 billion.

Reporting by Akankshita Mukhopadhyay in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D'Souza and Sai Sachin Ravikumar

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