CHS Q1 numbers off on soft volumes

Top end of guidance trimmed as adjusted EBITDA down 8%

Community Health Systems posted net income of $79.2 million in the first quarter of this year, up 5 percent from early 2012 — when the company’s bottom line was hurt by a $63 million loss on the extinguishment of some debt. Per diluted share, earnings from continuing operations and excluding one-time items were 87 cents, two cents better than analysts had expected.

Like most of its peers, the Franklin-based hospital operator struggled with patient volumes during the quarter, which led to revenues rising just 0.4 percent to $3.3 billion. Same-store admissions fell 5.9 percent from the first three months of last year, and the number of patient days fell 3 percent to about 780,000. Adjusted for discontinued operations, losses from the early extinguishment of debt and profits attributable to non-controlling interests, EBITDA fell 8 percent from a year ago to $494 million.

Chairman, President and CEO Wayne Smith said the Q1 results are indicative of “a more challenging operating environment” for providers, which was evidenced earlier this month by lackluster reports from Health Management Associates and HCA Holdings.

“Our ability to adjust to these volatile conditions and realize improvement in revenues on a same store basis reflects the strength of our operating model across all of our markets,” Smith said. “We have also focused on managing our cost structure in line with current and expected volume trends.”

Smith and his team also trimmed the top end of their 2013 earnings guidance. They now expect CHS to earn between $3.50 and $3.80 per share. Previously, that range was $3.50 to $3.90 per share.

Shares of CHS stock (Ticker: CYH) closed Monday trading at $45.09 after climbing more than 3 percent but were off slightly in after-hours trading. So far this year, they’ve risen more than 45 percent.