What happened

Shares of Benefitfocus Inc. (NASDAQ:BNFT) rose on Friday after the cloud-based benefits management platform provider reported its first-quarter results. The company beat analyst estimates across the board, sending the stock up 11.5% by 12:20 p.m. EDT.

So what

Benefitfocus reported first-quarter revenue of $62.4 million, up 8.2% year over year and nearly $4 million higher than the average analyst estimate. Software services revenue grew by 4% year over year to $48.2 million, while professional services revenue soared 28% to $14.2 million. Split up a different way, employer revenue climbed 12% to $40.3 million and insurance carrier revenue edged up 1% to $22.1 million.

A rising stock chart.

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Non-GAAP earnings per share came in at a loss of $0.26, up from a loss of $0.36 in the prior-year period and $0.13 higher than analysts were expecting. Adjusted EBITDA was a loss of $1.0 million, an improvement over the $4.3 million loss reported in the first quarter of 2017.

CEO Ray August expects the recently launched BenefitsPlace to be a key growth driver going forward: "The launch of BenefitsPlace will open new opportunities across our platform and help position Benefitfocus as the technology choice to connect the benefits industry. As we focus on our business strategy, improve our sales execution, and strengthen the core of our operations, we believe our revenue opportunities will continue to expand, along with long-term value for our shareholders."

Now what

Benefitfocus expects to produce second-quarter revenue between $55.5 million and $57.5 million, along with a non-GAAP EPS loss between $0.38 and $0.44. Those ranges compare to revenue of $63.3 million and a non-GAAP EPS loss of $0.05 in the second quarter of 2017.

For the full year, the company sees revenue between $250 million and $258 million and a non-GAAP EPS loss between $0.54 and $0.79. The company produced revenue of $256.7 million and a non-GAAP EPS loss of $0.27 in 2017.

While Benefitfocus' guidance was weak, investors seemed to instead focus on the company's estimate-beating first-quarter results.

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