NAPLES — Shares of Health Management Associates Inc. closed higher Monday, despite a warning that a tough economy took a toll on the company's fourth-quarter profits.
Late Sunday, the Naples-based hospital operator announced its preliminary earnings for the quarter, which came up a few cents short of what analysts expected.
Now, HMA forecasts it will earn an adjusted 19 cents to 21 cents a share for the fourth quarter on revenues of $1.48 billion. On average, analysts surveyed by FactSet predicted a quarterly profit of 23 cents per share on the same amount of revenue.
"I think the most important thing to highlight is that we managed well through a challenging quarter," said John Merriwether, HMA's vice president of financial relations, in an email.
That might have helped boost HMA's shares Monday. Shares closed at $9.22, up 10 cents on the New York Stock Exchange.
Health Management operates 70 hospitals in the U.S., primarily in the Southeast. Locally, that includes two Physicians Regional medical centers in Collier County and a hospital in Lehigh Acres in Lee County.
Health Management expects to post several charges for legal costs and Medicaid payment reductions for the fourth quarter.
"Our preliminary 2012 results reflect an ongoing difficult economic backdrop," said Gary Newsome, HMA's president and CEO. "However, by continuing to focus on delivering high-quality care, while maintaining strong fiscal discipline, we achieved solid same-hospital results for the quarter and the year."
Same hospital refers to hospitals open at least a year. It's a metric that strips out any distortion from hospitals that recently opened or closed.
Looking ahead to 2013, HMA expects to earn 86 cents to $1.01 per adjusted share on revenue of $7 billion to $7.2 billion. Analysts had forecast the company to post a 2013 profit of 90 cents per share and revenue of $6.14 billion.
"The health-care industry is in the midst of significant change, and we're taking important steps that we believe will best position Health Management for continued success as health-care reform continues to be implemented," Newsome said. "We believe that the change the industry is experiencing is creating growth opportunities from hospital partnerships and acquisitions — an attractive area for capital deployment — and we expect this environment will continue for the foreseeable future."
__ The Associated Press contributed to this story.