Express Scripts quarterly net profit rises, shares dip

Reuters

Oct 24 (Reuters) - Pharmacy benefit manager Express ScriptsHolding Co on Thursday reported higher net earnings forthe third quarter but said claims volume declined 9 percent.

The company's shares, which closed at $63.74 on the Nasdaq, were down 4.3 percent at $60.99 in after-hours trading.

"They had a pretty good quarter ... results were in line,"said Morningstar analyst Vishnu Lekra. He said some investorsmay have been disappointed with the drop in claims but that thedecline was expected after one of the company's larger healthinsurer clients decided to take its business in-house.

Express Scripts and other pharmacy benefit managersadminister prescription drug benefits for employers and healthplans, and also run large mail order pharmacies.

The company said it expects fourth-quarter adjusted earningsof $1.09 to $1.13 per share, the mid-point of which is belowWall Street's estimate of $1.12 a share, according to ISI Group,which called the third-quarter results "lackluster."

Excluding items such as a tax benefit of 1 cent per share,Express Scripts earned $1.07 a share in the third quarter, justbelow the $1.08 a share expected on average by analysts,according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The company reported net earnings of $438.1 million, or 52cents a share, compared with $395.9 million, or 47 cents ashare, a year earlier.

Revenue totaled $25.9 billion, just ahead of the averageestimate of $25 billion.

Citing its year-to-date performance and reduced tax rate, Express Scripts raised the lower end of its full-year profitoutlook. It now expects adjusted 2013 earnings of $4.30 to $4.34per share, up from its prior outlook of $4.26 to $4.34 pershare.

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