Ensign CEO: Home Health, Hospice Segment Growth Likely to Outpace Skilled Nursing

The Ensign Group (Nasdaq: ENSG) achieved its highest-ever adjusted earnings per share during the fourth quarter of 2018, the company announced Wednesday. That’s thanks in part to growth and success in the California-based provider’s home health and hospice services segment.

Growth within the space will likely outpace that of Ensign’s skilled nursing subset, President and CEO Christopher Christensen said during a Thursday conference call with investors.

“We think on a percentage basis we’ll grow a little bit faster in home health, hospice and assisted living than we will in skilled nursing,” Christensen said. “That number’s crept up from 3% several years ago to 16% now, and I think it will continue to creep up.”

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Ensign reported record adjusted earnings per share of $0.54 for the fourth quarter and $1.88 for 2018 overall, along with record GAAP diluted earnings per share of $0.48 for the Q4 and $1.70 for the year.

Additionally, consolidated GAAP net income for 2018 was $92.4 million, up 128.2% from the previous year, while consolidated adjusted net income for the year was $102.1 million, an increase of 38.3% from 2017.

While most of Ensign’s portfolio consists of skilled nursing operations, Christensen credited the company’s other lines of business — including its home health, hospice and home care subsidiary Cornerstone Healthcare Inc. — for “quietly creat[ing] significant value,” in a statement.

In 2018, Cornerstone grew its segment revenue and income by 20.0% to $170.9 million and 32.5% to $26.1 million, respectively, compared to 2017.

Additionally, Ensign added four home health agencies, three hospice agencies and two home care agencies in 2018, bringing its year-end total of home health, hospice and home care agencies up to 54. Ten years prior, in 2008, Ensign had zero locations in the segment.

In total, Ensign now has 189 skilled nursing operations, 24 of which also include assisted living operations, 55 assisted and independent living operations, 23 hospice agencies, 24 home health agencies and seven home care businesses across sixteen states.

Ensign’s stock was up 10.84% nearing end-of-day Thursday, trading for $49.98 per share.

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