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Quest Diagnostics raises profit forecast on COVID testing surge

Quest Diagnostics on Wednesday signaled an upbeat 2021 profit as COVID-19 testing volumes surged with the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant in the United States. Quest said it performed over 120,000 PCR tests per day in the last couple of weeks of 2021, and over 150,000 tests a day at the beginning of this year. “We saw a steep increase in our volumes in the fourth quarter, particularly the last two weeks in December, and it continues into January,” Quest Diagnostics Chief Executive Officer Steve Rusckowski said at the annual J.P. Morgan Health Care conference. While the COVID-19 testing opportunity is expected to continue into the first quarter, demand will eventually decline in 2022 compared to the last year, Rusckowski added. Quest’s comments echo that of COVID-19 test maker Abbott Laboratories, which has also said it expects strong testing demand in the near term. Quest said it performed an average of 83,000 COVID-19 molecular tests a day in the third quarter, ended Sept. 30, driven by the Delta variant spread. Quest now expects 2021 adjusted earnings per share of $14.24, up from its prior forecast of $13.50 to $13.90 per share, given the COVID-19 testing demand surge and a recovery in its base testing business. It also said it expects its 2022 adjusted profit will exceed the upper end of its previous guidance of $7.40 to $8 per share.

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