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Staff File Photo by Robin Rudd / Unum Group, with its headquarters in downtown Chattanooga, employs nearly 3,000 people in the city.

Chattanooga-based Unum Group on Tuesday reported lower fourth quarter 2021 adjusted operating income compared to a year earlier, though earnings per share beat analyst expectations.

Unum posted adjusted operating income in the fourth quarter 2021 of $182 million, down from $235.3 million in the same quarter of 2020, the disability benefits insurer reported after the stock market's close.

But the most recent quarter's adjusted operating income of 89 cents per share beat the Seeking Alpha estimate by 4 cents.

Unum's stock closed on the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday at $24.34, down 4 cents, or 0.16%.

Richard P. McKenney, Unum's president and chief executive officer, said the company's business continued to gain momentum in the fourth quarter, with solid premium growth and favorable returns on its investment portfolio.

"We maintained our strong capital position and entered 2022 well-positioned for growth, yet our elevated claims experience is a reminder of the impact COVID continues to have on our world," he said in a statement.

He said that during the quarter, Unum repurchased $50 million of its shares, reflecting its confidence in the strength of the business, as well the commitment to generating value for shareholders.

"Our purpose remains clear, and our people continue to demonstrate sustained resilience in serving our customers," McKenney said.

For 2021, Unum reported adjusted operating income of $4.35 per share, compared to $4.93 per share in the prior year.

Fourth quarter net income was $159.7 million, or 78 cents per diluted common share, compared to net income of $135.4 million, or 66 cents per diluted common share, for the fourth quarter of 2020, according to the company.

In the Unum US Segment, the insurer posted adjusted operating income of $81.4 million in the fourth quarter of 2021, a decrease of 43.3% from $143.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2020.

Within the segment, the group disability line of business reported a 47.3% decrease in adjusted operating income to $34.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2021, compared to $64.7 million in the fourth quarter of 2020.

The Colonial Life Segment reported a 12.4% increase in adjusted operating income to $80 million in the fourth quarter of 2021, compared to $71.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2020.

The company anticipates hosting a conference call on Feb. 25 to provide its outlook for 2022.

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