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Why Should You Retain Cigna (CI) in Your Portfolio Now?

Cigna Corporation CI continues to benefit from sustained top-line growth, contract wins or relationship renewals with renowned healthcare systems, medical membership growth and a solid financial position. An optimistic 2022 earnings per share (EPS) outlook instills further confidence in the stock.

Zacks Rank & Price Performance

Cigna carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) at present.

The stock has gained 38.5% in a year compared with the industry’s rally of 28.6%. Meanwhile, the Medical sector and the S&P Index has declined 22% and 15.7%, respectively, in the same time frame.

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Favorable Style Score

CI is well-poised for progress, as is evident from its impressive VGM Score of B. Here V stands for Value, G for Growth and M for Momentum, with the score being a weighted combination of all three factors.

Robust Prospects

The Zacks Consensus Estimate for CI’s 2022 earnings is pegged at $22.98 per share, indicating an increase of 12.3% from the year-earlier reading, while the same for revenues stands at $180.3 billion, implying a 3.6% improvement from the prior-year actuals.

The consensus mark for 2023 earnings stands at $25.34 per share, suggesting growth of 10.3% from the year-ago reported figure, while the same for revenues stands at $189.1 billion, indicating a rise of 4.9% from the year-ago reported number.

Stellar Surprise History

CI’s earnings outpaced estimates in each of the trailing four quarters, the average being 10.74%.

Northbound Estimate Revisions

The Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2022 and 2023 earnings has been revised 1.3% and 0.5% upward, respectively, in the past 60 days.

Upbeat EPS View for 2022

This year, Cigna anticipates adjusted revenues to be at a minimum of $178 billion, implying growth of at least 2.2% from the 2021 reported figure.

Adjusted EPS are forecast at a minimum of $22.90. The guidance suggests minimum growth of 11.9% from the 2021 reported figure.

Business Tailwinds

Revenues of Cigna continue to benefit from the robust performances of its two well-positioned growth platforms, namely Evernorth and Cigna Healthcare. Solid contribution from these businesses backed CI to witness a 15% CAGR of adjusted EPS over the 2010-2021 period. For more than a decade, CI has maintained a track record of reporting average annual adjusted EPS growth, higher than the long-term target of 6-8%.

Evernorth devises flexible home delivery, virtual and in-person care, and specialty customer-centric solutions that can be customized to address the specific needs of clients. This health services arm of CI makes concerted efforts to extend new and cost-effective solutions, which its clients can easily incorporate into their health plans. In the ongoing month, Evernorth added five digital solutions on its clinical platform, Digital Health Formulary.

Cigna continues to benefit from a well-performing Government business, which in turn, is driven by continuous product expansions, rising membership and new collaborations or contract extensions with renowned healthcare systems. As of Jun 30, 2022, total medical customers of CI grew 5.2% year over year. An aging U.S. population is expected to place Cigna’s Medicare plans in solid demand during the days ahead.

Considering the promising prospects of its growth platforms, Cigna intends to intensify its focus on the core units, thereby continually divesting non-health units. The deal to divest its life, accident and supplemental benefits businesses to insurer Chubb CB — inked in October 2021 — was completed in less than a year.

Additionally, the sell-off provided Cigna with net proceeds to comfortably undertake share repurchases. This seems in sync with management’s announcement to prioritize share buybacks over large-scale mergers or acquisitions this year.

An adequate cash balance and robust cash-generating abilities will continue to empower Cigna in prudently deploying its capital not only through share repurchases but also by hiking dividends. The last raise was approved by CI’s board in February 2022. Its dividend yield of 1.6% is higher than the industry’s average of 1.1%.

Stocks to Consider

Some better-ranked stocks in the Medical space are Lantheus Holdings, Inc. LNTH and Assertio Holdings, Inc. ASRT. While Lantheus flaunts a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy), Assertio carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) at present. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

Lantheus’ earnings surpassed estimates in each of the last four quarters, the average being 54.60%. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for LNTH’s 2022 earnings is pegged at $3.57 per share, which indicates an increase of more than seven-fold from the prior year reading. The consensus mark for LNTH’s 2022 earnings has moved 15.9% north in the past 60 days.

The bottom line of Assertio outpaced estimates in three of the trailing four quarters and missed the mark once, the average being 126.39%. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for ASRT’s 2022 earnings is pegged at 51 cents per share. The year-ago figure was reported to be a loss of 3 cents per share. The consensus mark for ASRT’s 2022 earnings has moved 27.5% north in the past 60 days.

Shares of Lantheus and Assertio have gained 176.7% and 157.7%, respectively, in a year.

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