April 30 (Reuters) - Cigna Corp on Thursday reported a 1.4% rise in quarterly sales, benefiting from premiums and strength in its health services unit, which includes the Express Scripts pharmacy benefits business it acquired in 2018.
The health insurer, like rivals UnitedHealth Group Inc , Anthem Inc and Humana Inc, also reiterated its 2020 profit target.
Cigna said it continues to expect 2020 adjusted income from operations to be between $18 and $18.60 per share. Analysts were expecting $18.32 per share, according to Refinitiv IBES data.
For the first quarter, adjusted revenue from the health services business rose nearly 21% to $27.17 billion.
Analysts had expected the business to gain as people refilled prescription medications for a longer period to stock up on their medicines before the virus-led lockdowns, while others turned to mail order pharmacy services during the period.
The company's medical care ratio - the amount spent on medical claims versus the income from premiums - improved to 78.3% in the quarter, from 78.9% in the year earlier, but marginally fell short of estimates of 78.2%.
Net income fell to $1.18 billion, or $3.15 per share, in the quarter ended March 31, from $1.37 billion, or $3.56 per share, a year earlier.
Total revenue rose to $38.47 billion from $37.95 billion.
Reporting by Manojna Maddipatla in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli