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Hospital Cos Universal Health, HMA, Maintain Year Views

By Dinah Wisenberg Brin Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES Hospital operators Universal Health Services Inc. (UHS) and Health Management Associates Inc. (HMA) maintained their full-year 2010 earnings outlook as HMA posted a 23% increase in second-quarter profit attributable to shareholders and Universal Health reported a 19% decline that partly reflects a favorable insurance-reserve adjustment the previous year. Hospital shares were mixed Tuesday after the two companies posted second-quarter results late the previous day, including revenue growth that slightly missed Street views. Universal Health, which posted higher bad-debt expense year-over-year, a narrower acute-care adjusted operating margin and slowing revenue growth at those facilities, recently traded down less than 1% at $36.09. HMA, which analysts said showed the benefits of cost-containment efforts and posted lower bad-debt expense, recently traded up 4% at $7.29. Other hospital operators traded within that range. Inpatient volumes at HMA were seen as light in the quarter, in keeping with Street concerns about the industry, and Universal Health was hurt by an unfavorable mix of commercially insured versus self-paying patients. HMA, based in Naples, Fla., posted net income attributable to shareholders of $39.7 million, or 16 cents a share, compared with $32.6 million, or 13 cents a share a year earlier. Revenue climbed 10% to $1.25 billion. The EPS result compares favorably with the average Thomson Reuters analyst estimate of 15 cents, while revenue was short of the $1.26 billion view. HMA, which cited disciplined cost controls, progress with emergency room operational improvements and physician recruitment and widening same-hospital operating margins, reiterated its expectations for 2010 EPS of 56 cents to 61 cents. On Tuesday, HMA said it had agreed to acquire the 406-bed Wuesthoff Health System and associated facilities in Melbourne, Fla., in a deal expected to close by Oct. 1. Universal Health, King of Prussia, Pa., reported net income attributable to shareholders of $65.6 million, or 67 cents a share, compared with $80.9 million, or 82 cents a share, a year earlier. Revenue increased 3% to $1.34 billion. Adjusted net income declined about 6% to $66.7 million, or 68 cents a share, compared with $71.1 million, or 72 cents a share, a year earlier. Universal's adjusted EPS barely missed the Street view of 69 cents and revenue fell short of the average analyst estimate of nearly $1.36 billion. The company posted stronger results at its mental-health facilities than at its general, acute-care hospitals. Universal maintained its full-year EPS guidance of $2.45 to $2.65. Same-hospital patient volume, including both inpatient and outpatient visits, at Universal's acute-care hospitals climbed 1.9%, which was modest, while unexpectedly weak revenue per adjusted admission led to the revenue miss, Wells Fargo analyst Gary Lieberman said. "The hospital group as a whole has been under pressure over concerns on volumes, in our view, therefore we view 2Q10 results as better than expected after operating expense results," Lieberman said. He similarly considered HMA results better than expected, in spite of revenue that was slightly weaker than estimated. At Universal Health, better-than-expected revenue and adjusted patient days at the company's behavioral health facilities contributed positively to the quarter, Lieberman said. For Universal's acute-care hospitals, payor mix remains an issue, with volumes of commercially insured patients declining and self-paying patients increasing even as overall patient volume met the company's target, Lazard Capital analyst Tom Gallucci said. Universal's bad-debt expense rose year-over-year as well, he noted. For HMA, lower bad-debt expense made up for the weaker revenue, Lieberman said. HMA posted a 3.7% increase in same-hospital adjusted admissions, with strong growth in outpatient surgery making up for a slight decline in admissions. CRT Capital Group analyst Sheryl Skolnick said HMA posted "a good quarter, showing execution on the strategic plan, with good earnings quality, but below our expectations on all but the EPS line: either we were too bullish or weak inpatient volumes took a toll on productivity and margins." HMA's 1-cent EPS beat largely came from greater interest income or other gains, Gallucci said. -By Dinah Wisenberg Brin, Dow Jones Newswires, 215-656-8285;

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