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Health insurer Centene projects flat 2010 profit

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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Health insurer Centene Corp. Friday said it still expects profit will be about flat in 2010 due in part to startup costs from a new contract.

The company forecast an annual profit of $1.90 to $2 per share on revenue of $4.35 billion to $4.45 billion, affirming guidance provided a month ago. Centene said medical spending will total 84 percent to 86 percent of its premium revenue and said costs connected to swine flu and seasonal flu strains will be higher than normal.

According to Thomson Reuters, analysts expect the company to earn $1.99 per share along with $4.54 billion in revenue.

Centene said the forecast does not include any changes from health care reform but do include startup costs connected to a Mississippi Medicaid contract and rate changes, among other items.

Centene backed its 2009 forecasts for $1.91 to $1.97 per share in profit and $3.85 billion to $3.9 billion in revenue. Analysts are projecting a profit of $1.92 per share and $4.11 billion in revenue, on average.

The company is scheduled to report its fourth-quarter and 2009 results on Feb. 9.