updated 8/4/2004 8:00:15 AM ET 2004-08-04T12:00:15

Cigna Corp. swung to a profit in the second quarter, citing improvement in its health, disability and life insurance programs and a boost from an asset sale, and raised its earnings guidance for the full year.

The employee benefits provider reported Wednesday it earned $515 million, or $3.67 per share, for the three months ended June 30, compared with a net loss of $53 million, or 38 cents per share, in the same quarter of 2003.

Revenue was steady at $4.6 billion, about the same as a year ago.

The company had taken a $286 million after-tax charge in the year-earlier quarter in connection with a reinsurance business it was exiting. The second-quarter 2004 results got a boost from a gain on the April 1 sale of Cigna’s retirement benefits business.

Before special items, Cigna said second-quarter income from continuing operations would have been $246 million, or $1.75 per share, compared with $158 million, or $1.13 a share, a year earlier. Analysts for Thomson First Call had expected earnings of $1.25 per share.

Cigna said it expected consolidated income from continuing operations of $5.95 to $6.25 per share for the year, up from a June estimate of $5.15 to $5.55 per share.

“Our second quarter earnings reflect a strong performance by all of our employee benefits businesses,” said H. Edward Hanway, chairman and chief executive officer.

Cigna said it repurchased about 4.2 million shares of its stock for $284 million during the second quarter and about 836,000 shares for $56 million during July. The board increased the company’s stock repurchase authority by $500 million on July 28.

For the first six months of the year, Cigna said it had net income of $732 million, or $4.21 per share, on revenues of $9.36 billion, compared with net income of $135 million, or $1.30 per share, on revenues of $9.53 billion for the first half of 2003.

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