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Aetna, Inc. (AET)

Zacks Equity Research

Aetna Inc.'s (NYSE:AET - News) fourth quarter 2011 results came in line with the Zacks Consensus Estimate. Earnings were, however, up 54% year over year. The quarter primarily benefited from low medical utilization and a decline in operating expense.

Overall, Aetna performed well in 2011, beating earnings estimates every quarter, on the back of low medical utilization, pricing discipline, medical cost management strategies and cost controls. The year saw the company making strategic investments in acquisitions and technologies, with an intention to extend Aetna's core health business and also to capitalize on exciting new consumer and provider opportunities emerging in the marketplace. Aetna's strong operating results and significant capital generation will allow it to continue investing for the future.

We expect the company to continue performing well in 2012. We expect Aetna to continue to benefit from gains in the Medicaid and Medicare segments, fast growing health services segment and a strong balance sheet.

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