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Factors That Make Centene (CNC) an Attractive Bet for Investors

Centene Corporation CNC remains well-poised for growth, thanks to its solid Medicare and Medicaid businesses resulting in a growing customer base. Acquisitions, strong financial guidance for 2022 and a credible financial position act as other tailwinds to the stock.

Zacks Rank & Price Performance

Centene carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy), currently.

The stock has risen 25.5% in a year compared with the industry’s rally of 27.8%. The Zacks Medical sector and the S&P 500 composite have lost 24% and 16.4%, respectively, in the same time frame.

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Favorable Style Score

Centene carries an impressive Value Score of A. Value Score helps find stocks that are undervalued. Back-tested results have shown so far that stocks with an impressive Value Score combined with a solid Zacks Rank are the best investment bets.

Robust Prospects

The Zacks Consensus Estimate for CNC's 2022 earnings is pegged at $5.70 per share, suggesting growth of 10.7%, while the same for revenues stands at $143.6 billion, implying a rise of 14% from the respective year-ago reported figures.

Additionally, the consensus mark for 2023 earnings stands at $6.30 per share, indicating an improvement of 10.5% from the prior-year reported figure.

Sound Surprise History

Centene contains a decent earnings surprise record. CNC’s bottom line outpaced estimates in three of the trailing four quarters and missed the mark once, the average surprise being 2.99%.


Price-to-earnings (P/E) is one of the multiples used to value healthcare stocks. Compared with the health maintenance organization industry’s forward 12-month P/E ratio of 19.4, Centene has a reading of 12.7. It is quite evident that the stock is currently undervalued.

Solid Financial Outlook for 2022

This year, Centene anticipates revenues between $141.6 billion and $143.6 billion, the midpoint of which indicates a 13.2% rise from the 2021 reported figure.  

Adjusted earnings per share are forecast within $5.60-$5.75 for 2022. The midpoint of the outlook suggests 10.2% growth from the 2021 figure.

Business Tailwinds

Revenues of Centene continue to be on an uptrend, courtesy of strength in its Medicare and Medicaid businesses that fetched several contract wins and led to membership growth for the health insurer.

The current year has been quite an active year so far for CNC with respect to contract wins. Notably, US states like Louisiana, Indiana and Missouri, among others, awarded Centene Medicaid contracts. In the ongoing month, along with the Nebraska contract win, CNC’s Texas arm Superior HealthPlan struck a deal to continue catering to the state’s foster children and youth via its Medicaid program.

An aging U.S. population favors Medicare Advantage (MA) plans, which is likely to keep spurring solid demand for CNC’s Medicare plans.

Centene follows an inorganic growth route, which in turn, bolsters its capabilities and provides an opportunity to boost top-line growth. The managed care organization also resorts to divestitures to intensify focus on its core Managed Care business and conduct share repurchases or bring down the mounting debt level with proceeds from the sell-offs.

While the PANTHERx sale (Centene’s pharmacy business) was completed this July, divestment of the comprehensive pharmacy solutions organization Magellan Rx is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2022.

As Centene attempts to reduce its debt burden through divestiture proceeds, it can utilize its existing cash reserves and a robust cash-generating ability to pursue growth-related initiatives. A declining debt burden is usually accompanied by reduced interest expenses, which is the case for Centene. Its interest expenses dipped 3.3% year over year in the first half of 2022.

Other Stocks to Consider

Some other top-ranked stocks in the Medical space are ShockWave Medical, Inc. SWAV, Lantheus Holdings, Inc. LNTH and AMN Healthcare Services, Inc. AMN, each currently sporting a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

ShockWave Medical’s earnings surpassed estimates in each of the last four quarters, the average being 180.14%. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for SWAV’s 2022 earnings is pegged at $2.57 per share. A loss per share of 26 cents was reported in the prior year. The consensus mark for SWAV’s 2022 earnings has moved 27.2% north in the past 60 days.

Lantheus’ earnings beat estimates in each of the trailing four quarters, the average being 54.60%. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for LNTH’s 2022 earnings is pegged at $3.57 per share, indicating an increase of more than seven-fold from the prior-year reading. The consensus mark for LNTH’s 2022 earnings has moved 15.9% north in the past 60 days.

The bottom line of AMN Healthcare outpaced estimates in each of the trailing four quarters, the average being 15.66%. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for AMN’s 2022 earnings indicates a rise of 40.2%, while the same for revenues suggests an improvement of 28.5% from the respective year-ago actuals. The consensus mark for AMN’s 2022 earnings has moved 0.9% north in the past 30 days.

Shares of ShockWave Medical and Lantheus have gained 32.7% and 166.1%, respectively, in a year. However, the AMN Healthcare stock has lost 8.4% in the same time frame.

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