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Stock Analyst Update

UnitedHealth’s Momentum Continues in Second Quarter; Shares Moderately Overvalued

Mild changes to our bottom-line forecasts do not materially affect our $402 fair value estimate.


UnitedHealth’s (UNH) strong results continued in the second quarter, and the firm is tracking slightly above our profit estimates for the full year on a per share basis. However, mild changes to our bottom-line forecasts do not materially affect our $402 fair value estimate, and we continue to view shares as rich, especially relative to its MCO peers that have similar profit growth prospects but trade at lower multiples. Like its peers, UnitedHealth’s economic moat remains narrow, which recognizes the long-term policy risks it faces particularly in medical insurance and pharmacy benefit management that represent about two thirds of its operating profits. Admittedly, the industry seems to be enjoying a particularly benign period of policy risk, which appears to be benefiting UnitedHealth’s shares.

UnitedHealth delivered strong top- and bottom-line results in the quarter with its healthcare services arm leading the charge, as value-based arrangements with its physician groups and many service lines remain in expansion mode. Continued success in healthcare services could help insulate UnitedHealth from long-term policy risk eventually, but investors should recognize how small these operations are today (only about 19% of operating profits in 2021) relative to its other more policy-sensitive businesses. In total during the quarter, revenue grew 13% to $80 billion. With that top-line strength combined with strong medical loss ratio trends (down to 81.5% this quarter from 82.8% last year) and other cost controls, UnitedHealth’s adjusted EPS grew 19% to $5.57 year over year. Considering those results and its low-single-digit growth in the first quarter, management increased its 2022 outlook slightly to between $21.40 and $21.90 per share, or 13% to 15% growth. While our adjusted EPS estimate for this year was already at the low end of that new range, we suspect the company may be able perform slightly better than we were previously anticipating based on recent trends.

Julie Utterback does not own (actual or beneficial) shares in any of the securities mentioned above. Find out about Morningstar’s editorial policies.