UnitedHealth Continues Dividend, Renews Buy Backs
UnitedHealth Group announced today that its Board of Directors, at its regular meeting on February 9, 2010, authorized payment of an annual dividend to shareholders for 2010. The dividend, $0.03 per share, will be paid on April 20, 2010, to all shareholders of record as of the close of business on April 6, 2010. The company also paid a $0.03 per share dividend in 2009. The Board also renewed and increased the Company’s Share Repurchase Program, under which up to 120 million shares of the Company’s common shares may now be repurchased.
UnitedHealth Group repurchased 74 million shares of stock at a weighted average purchase price of $24.26 per share in 2009. As of December 31, 2009, the Company had approximately 1.15 billion common shares outstanding.
Merck Settles Lawsuits Tied To Vioxx
Reuters reported that Merck has agreed to make corporate governance changes and create internal committees to address potential safety issues with its products under a proposed settlement of shareholders lawsuits related to its withdrawn Vioxx painkiller. Merck also agreed to amend its code of conduct and pay as much as $12.2 million in legal fees as part of the settlement, which resolves all derivative litigation against Merck over Vioxx. Many terms of the settlement, such as filling the position of chief medical officer and registering clinical trials with the government, have already been accomplished or are in the process of being completed, a Merck spokesman said.
The Superior Court of New Jersey approved the derivative lawsuit settlement on a preliminary basis on February 8, 2010. A hearing to determine whether the settlement should win final approval has been scheduled for March 22, in New Jersey Superior Court in Atlantic City.
Zacks Upgrades Cardinal Health
Benzinga is reporting that Zacks recently upgraded Cardinal Health to “Outperform" with a target price of $37 based on approximately 15.7x their fiscal 2011 EPS estimate of $2.36.
I like Cardinal Health. They have produced a ROE consistently in the teens over the past 10 years. Debt to Equity under 50%. Consistent dividends. Good, solid company. But, I am not comfortable with placing an almost 16 times earnings multiple on the company, especially using 2011 earnings.
Medtronic To Report Results Feb 23rd
Medtronic announced today it will report financial results for its third fiscal quarter on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2010. The earnings news release will include summary financial information for Medtronic’s third quarter ended Jan. 29, 2010.
In November, 2009, Medtronic raised its fiscal 2010 earnings guidance to a range of $3.17 to $3.22 per share, up from prior guidance of $3.10 to $3.20 per share. The company also backed its goal of increasing sales by 5% to 8%, excluding the impact of foreign currency, for the second half of the fiscal year and beyond.
Abbott's New Cancer Test
A new diagnostic tool physicians can use to monitor patients for the most common form of ovarian cancer may soon be available in the United States. Abbott’s ARCHITECT HE4 assay uses a simple blood test to help in monitoring for the recurrence or progression of epithelial ovarian cancer. If approved, this important immunoassay would be the first automated HE4 test available in the United States.
"The ability to monitor the recurrence or progression of ovarian cancer is a critical part of patient care. The ARCHITECT HE4 assay has the potential to be a powerful tool for both physicians and patients in the management of the disease," said Michael Warmuth, senior vice president, diagnostics, Abbott.
J&J Recalls Tylenol Arthritis Caplet
Johnson & Johnson is expanding a voluntary recall of Tylenol Arthritis Caplets due to consumer reports of a moldy smell that can cause nausea and sickness.
Johnson & Johnson had recalled five lots of the product last month after consumers complained of a musty, mildew-like odor that triggered nausea, stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea. The health care company said the odor results from trace amounts of a chemical called 2,4,6-tribromoanisole. That chemical is believed to result from the breakdown of another chemical used to treat wooden pallets that transport and store packaging materials. To date, the side effects, which also include vomiting and diarrhea, have been "temporary and non-serious," although the health effects of the compound have not been studied.
Pfizer Buys Rights To Gaucher Drug
Pfizer said Tuesday it had reached an agreement to license the worldwide rights to a treatment for Gaucher disease, a rare genetic disorder, from Protalix, an Israeli biotechnology company.
This deal would put Pfizer into competition with Cerezyme, Genzyme’s biggest-selling product.
Humana Profit Up
Humana said Monday that it had third-quarter net income of $301.5 million, or $1.78 per share, compared with $183 million, or $1.09 per share, a year earlier. Revenue rose 8 percent to $7.72 billion.
Analysts had expected $7.82 billion in revenue.
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