Managed care company Cigna Corp. reports second-quarter results Thursday before the market opens.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: The bar has been set high for Cigna, which is based in Philadelphia. All of its largest competitors have trumped Wall Street expectations for the second quarter, and three — Aetna Inc., UnitedHealth Group Inc. and Humana Inc. — said their earnings grew more than 20 percent.
Health insurers have been helped so far in the quarter by gains exceeding $100 million because claims leftover from previous quarters came in lower than expected, due in part to a mild flu season and a swine flu outbreak that largely fizzled.
Insurers also say utilization of their coverage is down.
Cigna has a broader product portfolio than some of its competitors, so its performance can be affected by factors they don't face. It operates health care, group disability and life segments in the U.S.
The insurer also sells individual insurance in several countries and operates an expatriate business that covers people living outside their home countries. Cigna leaders have touted its international business, which saw earnings jump 76 percent in the first quarter, as a source for future growth.
Cigna's performance also is affected by its guaranteed minimum income benefits and variable annuity death benefits businesses.
Cigna discontinued both in 2000 and operates them in run-off mode, meaning it seeks no new business. Those businesses hurt the company's performance when the market turns bad because Cigna's liabilities toward them increase.
WHY IT MATTERS: Cigna is the fourth-largest commercial health insurer based on enrollment, and the last of the biggest insurers to report second-quarter earnings.
WHAT'S EXPECTED: Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters forecast, on average, earnings of $1.01 per share on $5.26 billion in revenue.
LAST YEAR'S QUARTER: Cigna said its 2009 second-quarter profit jumped 60 percent, helped in part by a more favorable interest rate. But its total enrollment tumbled 7 percent as employers continued to cut jobs in a down economy, reducing the number of people covered by private health insurance.
Cigna earned $435 million, or $1.58 per share as revenue fell 8 percent to $4.49 billion.