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Is a Beat in Store for Cigna (CI) This Earnings Season?

Zacks Equity Research

Cigna Corp.’s CI first-quarter 2019 results, scheduled on May 2, should reflect growth in contributions across each of its businesses including strong retention levels, the continued expansion and deepening of its customer and client relationships, and solid growth across the company’s portfolio.

The Zacks Consensus Estimate for earnings is pegged at $3.74 per share (down 9% year over year) on revenues of $33.9 billion (up 197%).

Factors Affecting Q1 Results

In the company’s Integrated Medical segment, we expect to see rise in commercial customers and expansion of specialty relationships as well as premium growth reflecting underlying cost trends. Membership should increase from growth in the company’s select, middle-market and government segments.

The company expects rise in membership from global medical customers, strong customer and client retention, growth in the commercial business, as well as in Medicare advantage enrollments, partly offset by an expected enrollment decline in the U.S. individual business.

The company’s Health Service business should reflect solid performance from its mail order pharmacy operations, support from its integrated value proposition and contributions from the Express Scripts business.
Contribution from the company’s International Markets should bear evidence of solid business growth, continued administrative efficiency, and strategic investments for long-term growth.

The company expects the 2019 medical care ratio to be in the range of 80.5% to 81.5%, indicating continued strong performance of its commercial and government businesses, the impact of the health insurance tax suspension in 2019, as well as changes in business mix.  
We expect medical care ratio in the first quarter to be around this range.
We expect to see a year over year increase in interest expenses, due to debt taken, to fund the acquisition of Express Scripts.  

However, share repurchases made by the company will provide an additional cushion to its bottom-line.

Earnings Surprise

Cigna boasts an impressive earnings surprise history, having surpassed estimates in three of the four reported quarters, with average positive surprise of 11.8%.

Cigna Corporation Price and EPS Surprise

Cigna Corporation Price and EPS Surprise | Cigna Corporation Quote

What Our Model Says

Our proven model indicates that chances of Cigna beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate are high as it has the right combination of the two key ingredients — a positive Earnings ESP and a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) or higher. You can uncover the best stocks to buy or sell before they’re reported with our Earnings ESP Filter.

Earnings ESP: The Earnings ESP of Cigna is +5.14%.

Zacks Rank: Cigna currently has a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy), which further increases the predictive power of ESP.

Other Stocks to Consider

Here are a few other healthcare stocks worth considering as these too have the right combination of elements to beat on earnings in the upcoming quarterly results.

WellCare Health Plans, Inc. WCG has an Earnings ESP of +1% and a Zacks Rank of 3.  You can see the complete list of today's Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

Pfizer Inc. PFE has an Earnings ESP of +0.65% and a Zacks Rank of 3.

Amgen Inc. AMGN has an Earnings ESP of +0.37% and is a Zacks #3.

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