For this year, UnitedHealth Group expects revenues of about $257 billion, with net earnings to approach $15.90 per share and adjusted net earnings to approach $16.75 per share.
“Management previously braced investors that 2021 EPS growth would be below its long-term target of 13-16% due to COVID-19 uncertainty. The $18 starting point represents 8% growth, which is 2% below the Street. However, ex $1.80 of potential COVID-19 impact, growth would be an impressive 18%,” said David Windley, equity analyst at Jefferies.
“Other takes: 1) Positive enrollment updates: MA +13.5%, Commercial+1%; 2) Optum margins expand 45bps while Commercial declines 85bps due to COVID;3) Repurchases of $5BN vs $4.5BN in ’20,” Windley added.
At the time of writing, UnitedHealth’s shares traded 4.47% higher at $351.99 on Tuesday; the stock is up about 20% so far this year.
UnitedHealth Stock Price Forecast
Sixteen equity analysts forecast the average price in 12 months at $367.47 with a high forecast of $409.00 and a low forecast of $330.00. The average price target represents a 4.48% increase from the last price of $351.71. From those 16 analysts, 13 rated “Buy”, three rated “Hold” and none rated “Sell”, according to Tipranks.
Morgan Stanley gave the base target price of $371 with a high of $449 under a bull-case scenario and $183 under the worst-case scenario. The firm currently has an “Overweight” rating on the insurance company’s stock.
“We calculate our price target by applying a 20.5x P/E multiple to our base case FY21E EPS of $18.14. Multiple reflects 0.8 turn premium to S&P 500 multiple of 19.6x. Premium in-line with UNH 5 year average premium UNH has historically traded at the adjusted repeal of HIF (+0.4x) and for periods in 2019 where fears over M4A weighed on multiple (we don’t believe this outcome is likely),” said Ricky Goldwasser, equity analyst at Morgan Stanley.
Several other analysts have also upgraded their stock outlook. UnitedHealth Group had its price target increased by equities research analysts at Piper Sandler to $409 from $385. The firm presently has an “overweight” rating on the healthcare conglomerate’s stock. SVB Leerink lifted their price target to $373 from $370 and gave the company an “outperform” rating. Credit Suisse Group boosted their target price to $395 from $355 and gave the stock an “average” rating.
“UnitedHealth Group is the number one Medicare Advantage player with 28% market share, the number two Medicare PDP player with 20% market share, and the number two commercial player with 15% market share. United’s model is enhanced via vertical integration with its OptumRx PBM platform, which is one of the three largest PBMs in the country,” said Ricky Goldwasser, equity analyst at Morgan Stanley.
“With a large lead in the breadth of services offerings and considerable exposure to government businesses, UnitedHealth is well-positioned for any potential changes in the U.S. healthcare system. A strong balance sheet and continued solid cash generation give flexibility for continued M&A,” Goldwasser added.
Upside and Downside Risks
Risks to Upside: 1) MA growth above the market. 2) Optum integration leads to industry-leading MLR performance. 3) Medicaid margins improve to target 3%-5% range – highlighted by Morgan Stanley.
Risks to Downside: 1) Regulatory uncertainty. 2) Slower growth in core growth areas such as Medicare Advantage, commercial, and Medicaid with focus on services. 3) Optum growth slows as competitors become more reluctant to work with UnitedHealth.