In addition, Aetna today reaffirmed its full-year 2008 operating earnings per share guidance of $3.90 to $3.95 and preliminary 2009 operating earnings per share growth guidance of 3 to 5 percent, subject to finalization of 2009 pension expense, which will be determined based on December 31, 2008 market data. (1)
"With the continued volatility in the capital markets, there has been significant interest from investors and analysts with respect to our balance sheet, capital position and other related aspects of our investment portfolio," said Joseph M. Zubretsky, executive vice president and CFO. "On this call, we will provide additional information about our portfolio so that investors have a more comprehensive view of why we are confident that Aetna has the financial strength and flexibility to manage in the current economic environment.
"In addition, the fundamentals of our business remain solid, and we believe we can maintain our leading competitive position in the health care industry and generate significant value for our shareholders over the long term," Zubretsky said.
The public may access the conference call and the accompanying slides through a live audio webcast available on Aetna's Investor Information link on the Internet at www.aetna.com. Financial, statistical and other information, including GAAP reconciliations, related to the conference call also will be available on Aetna's Investor Information web site.
The conference call also can be accessed by dialing 866-550-6338 or 347-284-6930 for international callers. The company suggests participants dial in approximately 10 minutes before the call. The access code is 4072617. Individuals who dial in will be asked to identify themselves and their affiliations.
A replay of the call may be accessed through Aetna's Investor Information link on the internet at www.aetna.com or by dialing 719-457-0820, or 888-203-1112, toll-free. The replay access code is 4072617. The replay will be available from December 16 until December 30.
Anyone listening to the Aetna Inc. call and/or webcast is encouraged to read Aetna's 2007 Annual Report on Form 10-K and its third quarter 2008 earnings report on Form 10-Q on file with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including the discussion of risk factors and Aetna's historical results of operations and financial condition.
Aetna is one of the nation's leading diversified health care benefits companies, serving approximately 37.2 million people with information and resources to help them make better informed decisions about their health care. Aetna offers a broad range of traditional and consumer-directed health insurance products and related services, including medical, pharmacy, dental, behavioral health, group life and disability plans, and medical management capabilities and health care management services for Medicaid plans. Our customers include employer groups, individuals, college students, part-time and hourly workers, health plans, governmental units, government-sponsored plans, labor groups and expatriates. www.aetna.com
(1) Projected full year 2008 operating earnings per share exclude net realized capital losses of $232.0 million after tax, the release of reserves for anticipated future losses on discontinued products of $28.5 million after tax and an allowance against a reinsurance recoverable from Lehman Re of $27.4 million after tax reported by Aetna in the nine months ended September 30, 2008. Projected operating earnings per share also exclude any future net realized capital gains or losses and other items, if any, from net income. Aetna is not able to project the amount of future net realized capital gains or losses and therefore cannot reconcile projected operating earnings to projected net income or to a projected change in net income in any period. Although the excluded items may recur, management believes that operating earnings and operating earnings per share provide a more useful comparison of Aetna's underlying business performance from period to period. Net realized capital gains and losses arise from various types of transactions, primarily in the course of managing a portfolio of assets that support the payment of liabilities. However, these transactions do not directly relate to the underwriting or servicing of products for customers and are not directly related to the core performance of Aetna's business operations. The release of reserves for anticipated future losses on discontinued products represents a reduction of reserves previously established for certain products no longer offered by Aetna that does not benefit ongoing business operations. The allowance against a reinsurance recoverable from Lehman Re neither relates to the ordinary course of Aetna's business nor reflects its underlying business performance. In addition, management uses operating earnings to assess business performance and to make decisions regarding Aetna's operations and allocation of resources among Aetna's businesses. Projected operating earnings per share for the full-year 2008 assumes approximately 490 million weighted-average diluted shares.
CAUTIONARY STATEMENT; ADDITIONAL INFORMATION -- Certain information in this press release is forward looking, including our projections as to operating earnings per share and operating earnings per share growth. Forward-looking information is based on management's estimates, assumptions and projections, and is subject to significant uncertainties and other factors, many of which are beyond Aetna's control. Important risk factors could cause actual future results and other future events to differ materially from those currently estimated by management, including adverse economic conditions in the U.S. and abroad which can significantly and adversely affect Aetna's business and profitability; continued volatility and further deterioration of the U.S. and global capital markets, including fluctuations in interest rates, fixed income and equity prices and the value of financial assets, along with the general deterioration in the commercial paper, capital and credit markets, which can adversely impact the value of Aetna's investment portfolio, Aetna's profitability by reducing net investment income and increasing pension expense and/or Aetna's financial position by causing us to realize additional impairments on our investments; failure to achieve desired rate increases and/or profitable membership growth due to the slowing economy and/or significant competition, especially in key geographic markets where membership is concentrated; adverse pricing or funding actions by federal or state government payors; and unanticipated increases in medical costs (including increased medical utilization, increases resulting from unfavorable changes in contracting or re-contracting with providers, increased pharmacy costs, changes in membership mix to lower-premium or higher-cost products or membership-adverse selection; as well as changes in medical cost estimates due to the necessary extensive judgment that is used in the medical cost estimation process, the considerable variability inherent in such estimates, and the sensitivity of such estimates to changes in medical claims payment patterns and changes in medical cost trends). Other important risk factors include, but are not limited to: adverse changes in size, product mix or medical cost experience of membership; adverse changes in federal or state government policies or regulation (including legislative proposals that would affect our business model and/or limit our ability to price for the risk we assume and/or reflect reasonable costs or profits in our pricing and other proposals, such as initiatives to eliminate or reduce ERISA pre-emption of state laws, that would increase potential litigation exposure or mandate coverage of certain health benefits); the ability to reduce administrative expenses while maintaining targeted levels of service and operating performance; the ability to improve relations with providers while taking actions to reduce medical costs and/or expand the services we offer; the ability to successfully integrate our businesses (including acquired businesses) and implement multiple strategic and operational initiatives simultaneously; our ability to integrate, simplify, and enhance our existing information technology systems and platforms to keep pace with changing customer and regulatory needs; the outcome of various litigation and regulatory matters, including litigation and ongoing reviews of business practices by various regulatory authorities (including the current industry-wide investigation by the New York Attorney General into certain payment practices with respect to out-of-network providers); reputational issues arising from data security breaches or other means; and increases in medical costs or Group Insurance claims resulting from any acts of terrorism, epidemics or other extreme events. For more discussion of important risk factors that may materially affect Aetna, please see the risk factors contained in Aetna's 2007 Annual Report on Form 10-K and its Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the quarter ended September 30, 2008, each on file with the Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC"). You also should read Aetna's 2007 Annual Report on Form 10-K and Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the quarter ended September 30, 2008, each on file with the SEC for a discussion of Aetna's historical results of operations and financial condition.