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UnitedHealth profit tops views, helped by plan growth


MINNETONKA, Minn. (Reuters)—UnitedHealth Group Inc. posted a roughly 6% increase in quarterly profit, topping analysts' estimates, on growth across most of its insurance plans, and the company slightly raised its full-year forecast.

The largest U.S. health insurer by market value said second-quarter net income had risen to $1.34 billion, or $1.27 per share, from $1.27 billion, or $1.16 per share, a year earlier.

Analysts on average were expecting $1.19 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue rose 8% to $27.3 billion.

Enrollment in UnitedHealth's plans stood at nearly 35.9 million at the end of June, up about 5%. Enrollment increased in its Medicare plans for older people, Medicaid plans for low-income Americans and its fee-based plans for employers for which it administers services.

UnitedHealth shares have outperformed those of rivals WellPoint Inc. and Aetna Inc. this year and trade at more than a 35% premium to them based on price-to-earnings ratios.

Investors are encouraged by UnitedHealth's broad range of health plans, including its big business in Medicaid and Medicare, as well as the company's diverse profit stream from an array of other healthcare service offerings, such as pharmacy benefits and data and analytic products.

UnitedHealth forecast full-year earnings of $4.90 to $5.00 per share, higher than its prior range of $4.80 to $4.95. It was the second time the company has boosted its 2012 forecast. Analysts have been looking for $4.99 a share.

The company said it expected revenue of $110 billion for 2012.

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