UnitedHealth Group, Minneapolis, posted a 37% jump in first-quarter net income -- to $403 million, or $1.29 per share, from $295 million, or 92 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter -- beating analysts' expectations. Analysts' average earnings estimate was $1.24 per share, according to Thomson Financial/First Call. Total revenue for the quarter, ended March 31, rose 16% to $6.98 billion. UnitedHealth raised premiums 17% in the quarter, outpacing medical cost growth of 14%. Medical costs absorbed about 81.5% of premium revenue, consistent with a year ago. The nation's largest health insurer raised its outlook for 2003 for the second time this year, predicting earnings growth of 27%, to $5.40 per share, on $29 billion in revenue. In January, the company said it expected to earn $5.18 per share this year. -- by Laura B. Benko
After strong quarter, UnitedHealth sees good year ahead
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