Why Should UnitedHealth (UNH) Stock Remain in Your Portfolio

UnitedHealth Group Incorporated UNH is poised well for growth on the back of a growing top line, robust membership and a solid guidance.

The company even boasts a favorable earnings surprise history, having surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate in all the trailing four quarters, the average being 3.3%. This also vouches for the company’s operating excellence.

The stock carries an impressive VGM Score of A. Here V stands for Value, G for Growth and M for Momentum with the score being a weighted combination of all three factors.  

Its return on equity — a profitability measure — stands at 25.1%, better than its industry's average of 23.1%.

Now, let’s focus on the company’s fundamentals:

The company’s revenue stream is impressive, which is evident from its 2012-2018 CAGR of 12% on the back of a strong market position and an attractive core business that continues to be driven by new deals, renewed agreements and expansion of service offerings. The company now expects revenues of $243-$245 billion for this year, which at the midpoint reflects growth of 8% year over year.

UnitedHealth’s health service business, branded as Optum, is becoming an increasingly valuable business that deserves special mention. This segmental growth contributed 47% to the company’s operating earnings in 2018 compared with 25% in 2014. The business has significantly grown on the back of acquisitions, use of technology, advanced health analytics, modern care delivery and data-driven population health.

UnitedHealth’s membership in the public and senior business has been growing consistently over many years and the trend continued in the first quarter of 2019 as well. In the ongoing year, Medicare business will further fuel membership growth. We expect higher membership to continue favoring the company’s top line.

The company has raised its 2019 earnings outlook and accordingly, expects the metric in the range of $14.50-$14.75. A robust earnings guidance should instill investors’ confidence in the stock.

However, the company has been facing an increase in leverage and interest expenses. A deteriorating debt ratio raises financial risk, which remains a concern for the company.

The Zacks Consensus Estimate for current-year earnings per share is pegged at $14.71, suggesting a rise of 14.21% on 7.8% higher revenues of $243.9 billion from the year-ago reported figures.

For 2020, the Zacks Consensus Estimate for earnings per share stands at $16.63 on $262.5 billion revenues, implying a respective 13.1% and 7.6% from the prior-year reported numbers.

Shares of this Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) company have slid nearly 4.2% in the past year, wider than the industry’s decline of 3.3%.

Key Picks

Investors interested in the medical sector can take a look at some better-ranked stocks like WellCare Health Plans, Inc. WCG, Anthem, Inc. ANTM and Molina Healthcare, Inc MOH. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

WellCare Health offers managed care services to government-sponsored health care programs. The company pulled off average positive surprise of 13.52% in the preceding four quarters. It holds a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

Anthem operates as a health benefits company in the United States. In the last four quarters, the company delivered average beat of 4.76%. It carries a Zacks Rank of 2.

Molina Healthcare is a multi-state healthcare organization. In the trailing four quarters, the company came up with average beat of 88.17%. It sports a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

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