UnitedHealth's profits more than double in Q4, fueled by one-time tax boost

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UnitedHealth Group more than doubled its profits in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2017, largely due to a one-time tax benefit and continued growth in its Optum arms.

The nation's largest health insurer reported net earnings attributable to UnitedHealth of $3.6 billion in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, compared to $1.7 billion during the same period a year prior. UnitedHealth said a one-time tax gain of $1.22 per share drove the increase in net earnings.

UnitedHealth kept expenses in check in the fourth quarter of 2017, recording $48.1 billion in total operating costs, and posted revenue of $52.1 billion in the fourth quarter of 2017. That's up 9.7 percent from $47.5 billion in revenue reported in the same quarter a year prior. The company said revenue growth reflected strong demand for UnitedHealth's product and service offerings.

The company's insurance arm, UnitedHealthcare, grew its consumer base by 480,000 members in the fourth quarter of 2017 compared to the same period a year prior. This boosted UnitedHealthcare's revenue by 9.6 percent year over year to $41.6 billion, compared to $37.9 billion reported in the same quarter of 2016.

UnitedHealth's Optum health services businesses saw revenue grow by 10 percent to $24.4 billion in the fourth quarter of 2017 compared to the same period a year prior. The surge was led by double-digit percentage growth at OptumHealth and OptumInsight.

UnitedHealth expects adjusted net earnings of $12.30 to $12.60 per share in 2018, compared to previous estimates of $10.55 and $10.85 per share.  

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