Costs of Medco purchase, loss of UnitedHealth business hurt Express Scripts 4th-qtr profit

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Express Scripts, the largest U.S. pharmacy benefits manager, said Thursday that its fourth-quarter net income slipped, hurt by the loss of UnitedHealth, a large customer.

Charges related to its $29.1 billion purchase of Medco Health Solutions in 2012 and other expenses also weighed on profit.

Pharmacy benefits managers run prescription drug plans for employers, insurers and other customers. They process mail-order prescriptions and handle bills for prescriptions filled at retail pharmacies. Express Scripts fills more than a billion prescriptions a year.

Express Scripts Holding Co. said Thursday that it earned $501.9 million, down from $504.1 million in the final quarter of 2012. On a per-share basis, earnings rose to 63 cents from 61 cents as the company bought back more stock, leaving fewer shares on the market.

Excluding expenses including those stemming from its combination with Medco, earnings came to $1.12 per share. That matched Wall Street’s prediction.

Revenue fell 6 per cent, to $25.78 billion from $27.37 billion. FactSet says analysts forecast $25.36 billion.

Insurer UnitedHealth Group Inc. started handling its own prescriptions in 2013 instead of having Express Scripts fill them. Express Scripts said its measure of prescriptions filled fell 12 per cent in the fourth quarter to 360.7 million. Excluding UnitedHealth, it fell 5 per cent.

Express Scripts counts 90-day mail order prescriptions as three one-month prescriptions.

Its net income rose 40 per cent to $1.84 billion in 2013. Adjusted profit came to $4.33 per share. Revenue grew 11 per cent to $104.1 billion.

The St. Louis company says it expects to earn $4.88 to $5 per share in 2014, while analysts expected $4.93 per share, on average. Express Scripts added that it is aiming for earnings-per-share growth of 10 to 20 per cent per year for the next several years.

Shares of Express Scripts rose 74 cents to $77.12 on Thursday and lost $1.35, or 1.8 per cent, to $75.77 in aftermarket trading. The stock has gained 35 per cent over the past 12 months.