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Unum CEO Rick McKenney talks Friday, Feb. 3 2017 above Unum's atrium.

Unum Group boosted its adjusted fourth quarter earnings by 14 percent to raise its profits for all of 2017 to another record high for Chattanooga's biggest publicly traded company.

Buoyed by new tax reductions and continued economic gains, Unum said Wednesday it expects even better results this year, raising its 2018 projections to between 17 and 23 percent above this year's results.

The insurance giant said net income in the final three months of 2017 totaled $266.9 million, or $1.19 per share. Adjusted for one-time gains and losses from tax changes, legal settlements and investment gains, Unum had profits in the fourth quarter of $253.6 million, or $1.13 per diluted common share.

The results exceeded Wall Street expectations by 5 cents per share. The average estimate of seven analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of $1.08 per share.

Unum posted revenue of $2.84 billion in the fourth quarter. Its adjusted revenue was $2.83 billion, falling short of Street forecasts of $2.85 billion.

"Our fourth quarter results were again strong, capping a very successful year for the company that surpassed our expectations," Unum CEO Rick McKenney said in a statement. "We're pleased with our outstanding operating performance and the growth potential we have in front of us."

For the year, Unum reported a record high profit of $994.2 million, up 6.7 percent from the $931.4 million earned in 2016. Revenue was reported as $11.25 billion for 2017.

Unum expects to boost profits above the $1 billion mark for the first time in 2018 with gains in per share adjusted income from 17 to 23 percent over last year. That forecast was considerably better than the 4 to 7 percent growth the company previously projected for its profits in December prior to the passage of the tax overhaul package by Congress.

The new tax law cuts the top corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent.

Unum also is expected to realize better yields on its investment portfolio as interest rates trend higher this year. Low interest rates have limited returns for the insurance giant in recent years.

Ahead of the earnings announcement, Unum shares fell Wednesday by 48 cents per share, or nearly 0.9 percent, to close at $53.19. Unum shares have fallen 3 percent since the beginning of the year, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index has climbed roughly 6 percent.

But over the past 12 months, Unum shares are still up nearly 18.3 percent.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6340.

This story was updated Jan. 31, 2018, at 11:59 p.m.

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