(Reuters) -HCA Healthcare on Tuesday forecast 2024 profit above Wall Street estimates as the largest U.S. for-profit hospital operator anticipated strong demand for medical procedures, sending its shares up 6% in premarket trading.

The hospital operator also posted better-than-expected earnings for the fourth quarter and authorized an additional share repurchase program for up to $6 billion.

The results were helped by strong demand for services across its facilities and service lines, which, coupled with improved cost trends, drove solid financial, CEO Sam Hazen said.

HCA’s strong forecast and earnings follow health insurers such as UnitedHealth and Humana flagging increased utilization of medical services, especially among older adults seeking non-urgent surgical procedures like hip and knee replacements that were put off during the pandemic.

On an adjusted basis, HCA reported a profit of $5.93 per share, beating analysts’ expectations of $5.06 per share, according to LSEG data.

The Nashville, Tennessee-based company forecast a profit of $19.70 to $21.20 per share for the year, higher than the average analyst estimate of $19.51 per share.

(Reporting by Sneha S K and Leroy Leo in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel)

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