Admissions jump almost 7 percent and HCA tops Wall Street expectations in the first quarter

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NASHVILLE, Tennessee — First-quarter earnings soared 70 percent for HCA, as admissions growth helped the hospital chain reaffirm a strong performance it initially outlined last month.

The Nashville, Tennessee-based company said Tuesday that it earned $591 million, or $1.36 per share, in the quarter that ended March 31. That compares to a profit of $347 million, or 76 cents per share, last year, when the company booked a big charge tied to legal costs. Earnings, adjusted for non-recurring gains, came to $1.35 per share in the most recent quarter, which HCA announced in an earnings preview last month.

That topped Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of 12 analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of $1.22 per share.

The hospital operator posted revenue of $9.68 billion in the period, which also beat Street forecasts. Six analysts surveyed by Zacks expected $9.66 billion.

HCA runs about 165 hospitals and 115 free-standing surgery centers in 20 states and England. The company reaffirmed Tuesday that equivalent admissions at locations open at least a year rose 6.8 percent. Equivalent admissions include both inpatient admissions and outpatient procedures.

Investors and analysts have been waiting for hospital admissions to start consistently growing again after a long stretch in which consumers put off or postponing care during the economic downturn.

HCA Holdings Inc. now expects full-year, adjusted earnings of $4.90 to $5.30 per share, which is up from its previous forecast for $4.55 to $4.95 per share.

Analysts expect, on average, earnings of $4.99 per share, according to FactSet.

Shares of HCA climbed $1.07 to $76.51 shortly before markets opened Tuesday. The stock has climbed about 45 percent in the last 12 months.

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Elements of this story were generated by Automated Insights (http://automatedinsights.com/ap) using data from Zacks Investment Research. Access a Zacks stock report on HCA at http://www.zacks.com/ap/HCA

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Keywords: HCA Holdings, Earnings Report

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