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$CVS - CVS Health raises 2019 profit forecast after beating quarterly estimates

Aug 7 (Reuters) - CVS Health Corp raised its full-year profit forecast and posted better-than-expected quarterly results on Wednesday, as higher U.S. prescription drug prices fueled rebates to its core pharmacy benefits business.
Shares of the company, which closed a $69 billion purchase of health insurer Aetna Inc in November and also runs drugstores, rose 5.5% to $57.05 before the opening bell.
The pharmacy benefits unit brought in revenue of $34.84 billion in the second quarter, a 4.2% rise, helped by higher prices of branded drugs but the company said it continued to face pressure from high dispensing rates of generic drugs. Analysts on average had expected $34.2 billion, according to estimates compiled by Evercore ISI.
"We think shares will see some relief today," Evercore analyst Ross Muken said, pointing to the higher forecast which comes amid a nationwide crackdown on the dispensing of opioid drugs and investor concerns over potential changes to healthcare policy.
CVS plans to bring more health services to its stores to tackle chronic conditions, one of the goals of combining the country's largest drugstore operator with one of the oldest health insurers.
The unit which houses CVS's health insurance business brought in revenue of $17.4 billion in the quarter, slightly higher than the $17.3 billion analysts had expected.
Same-store sales at the company's front-end stores that sell over-the-counter drugs rose 2.9%, beating estimates of a 1.2% rise, according to three analysts polled by Refinitiv IBES.
Excluding items, CVS earned $1.89 per share, above the average analyst estimate of $1.69, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
Operating costs rose 24.4% to $60.10 billion, as the company integrated Aetna into its operations.
CVS now expects full-year adjusted earnings per share of $6.89 to $7.00, compared with its previous forecast of $6.75 to $6.90.
The company reported net income of $1.94 billion, or $1.49 per share, for the second quarter ended June 30, compared with a loss of $2.56 billion, or $2.52 per share, a year earlier.
CVS had taken a $3.9 billion goodwill impairment charge related to its Omnicare business in the second quarter of 2018.
Total revenue rose 35.2% to $63.43 billion, ahead of estimates of $62.65 billion. 

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