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HCA Will Pay Special Dividend After Quarterly Profit Surges

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Feb. 6 (Bloomberg) -- HCA Holdings Inc., the largest hospital company by revenue, reported fourth-quarter profit surged because of an acquisition and said it will pay a special dividend of $2 a share.

Net income climbed to $1.94 billion, or $4.25 a share, from $283 million, or 65 cents, a year earlier, the Nashville, Tennessee-based company said in a statement. The quarter was boosted by gains from the purchase of the part of the HCA-HealthONE LLC venture it didn’t already own and from asset sales, the company said. The shares rose to a six-month high.

HCA may benefit as Americans who avoided spending on elective procedures return to the doctor in a recovering economy. The U.S. jobless rate fell in January to 8.3 percent, the lowest in three years, as payrolls climbed. HCA said same-facility equivalent admissions increased 3.2 percent from the prior year.

“They had an extremely great quarter driven by volumes, and in the hospital business, volumes drive results,” said Sheryl Skolnick, an analyst with CRT Capital Group in Stamford, Connecticut, with a “buy” rating on the company.

Shares Climb

HCA rose 7.3 percent to $28.40 at the close in New York, the most since July. The shares have slipped 5.3 percent in the last 12 months.

Insurance companies including UnitedHealth Group Inc. and WellPoint Inc. also predicted more use of health-care services when determining their earnings forecasts for 2012.

HCA said 2012 earnings may be $3.35 to $3.55 a share, compared with the $3.49 average estimate of 22 analysts compiled by Bloomberg.

HCA, the product of an initial public offering that raised $3.79 billion on March 9, said last month that Medicaid reimbursement reductions would lead to lower-than-expected revenue. Medicaid is the $401 billion U.S.-state government program for the poor.

Last year, the company acquired the Colorado Health Foundation’s 40 percent ownership interest in its HCA-HealthONE LLC joint venture. HCA will continue to focus on buying companies that don’t require moving into new markets, Chief Executive Officer Richard Bracken said last month.

The HealthONE acquisition boosted fourth-quarter results by $3.13 a share, while sales of facilities helped by 18 cents, the company said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sarah Frier in New York at sfrier1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reg Gale at rgale5@bloomberg.net

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