Insurer UnitedHealth's quarterly profit, revenue beats

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[April 18, 2017] (Reuters) - UnitedHealth Group Inc, the largest U.S. health insurer, reported a better-than-expected quarterly revenue and profit, driven by strength in its pharmacy benefit management business.

UnitedHealth, which has pulled out of virtually all Obamacare individual markets, is the first health insurer to report its results a month after legislation to overhaul the U.S. healthcare system was pulled by Republican leaders.

The Republicans' failure to repeal Obamacare, at least for now, means it remains federal law. President Donald Trump and Republicans have promised to repeal and replace the law.

UnitedHealth, which sells employer-based insurance as well as Medicare and Medicaid, said net earnings attributable rose to $2.17 billion, or $2.23 per share, in the first quarter ended March 31, from $1.61 billion, or $1.67 per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, the company earned $2.37 per share, beating average analysts' estimate of $2.17, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue rose 9.4 percent to $48.73 billion, above estimates of 48.35 billion.

The company now expects 2017 revenue of about $200 billion and adjusted net earnings of $9.65-$9.85 per share, up from previous estimate of revenue of $197 billion-$199 billion and adjusted earnings of $9.30-$9.60 per share.

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UnitedHealth's withdrawal from Obamacare individual markets, combined with the 2017 health insurance tax deferral, reduced consolidated first quarter 2017 revenues by about $1.6 billion, the company said.

(Reporting by Ankur Banerjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)

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