Megacap health-insurance company WellPoint (NYSE:WLP) yesterday reported Q3 results that indicated positive trends in many of the organization's key metrics. WellPoint is now anticipating solid full-year earnings results for FY 2007, as well as enrollment gains in 2008.

For the quarter ended Sept. 30, 2007, WellPoint reported year-over-year EPS growth of about 16%, after adjusting for nonrecurring items. Operating revenue was up 5.2% versus the year-ago quarter. One of the major contributing factors to the company's earnings growth has been its ability to rein in its selling, general, and administrative (SG&A) expenses as a percent of revenue. In fact, this ratio fell 90 basis points, from 15.5% in the company's 2006 Q3, to 14.6% in its 2007 Q3. This was achieved despite WellPoint's addition of more than 700,000 new members in 2007.

Aside from the insurer's healthy earnings growth, another positive trend for shareholders in Q3 was the company's repurchase of $2.4 billion worth of its common shares. This seems to be a trend among insurers, given UnitedHealth Group's (NYSE:UNH) $2 billion buyback during the same time period and the $1.25 billion planned share repurchases at Aetna (NYSE:AET). Cigna (NYSE:CI) repurchased $990 million worth of its shares in the first half of this year.

The one negative trend standing out in Well Point's Q3 release was a 50-basis-point increase in its benefit expense ratio. This rise owed to higher claims in WellPoint State Sponsored Business, as well as a reconciliation of 2006 Medicare Part D claims activity that was greater than the insurer originally expected.

Overall operations are strong at WellPoint, with the company expecting full-year earnings growth of 15.4%. Although shares have not moved much over the past few months, these Q3 results are yet another step in the right direction for the company's shareholders.

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