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However, after taking into account certain charges related to restructuring (5 cents) and CEO succession costs (3 cents), the adjusted EPS came in at $1.07, handily beating both the Zacks Consensus Estimate and the year-ago quarter’s adjusted EPS of $1.00. The year-ago quarter recorded charges of $1.33 per share related to Medi-Cal settlement and other special items.
Revenues for the quarter increased 6.3% year over year to $1.93 billion, surpassing the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $1.87 billion. The acquisitions of Athena Diagnostics and Celera Corporation contributed 3.2% to revenue growth in the reported quarter, resulting in strong organic growth of 3.1%.
Clinical testing revenues increased 6.4% during the quarter with clinical testing volume (measured by the number of requisitions) climbing 3.4%. Revenue per requisition increased 2.9%. A mild winter compared to extreme weather in 2010 favorably affected the company’s volume and revenues growth by 2% during the reported quarter.
We await the impact of this weather change on Quest Diagnostic’s major peer Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings ( LH - Analyst Report ) which is scheduled to release its first quarter 2012 results on Thursday, April 19 2012.
Adjusted operating margin in the reported quarter improved marginally to 16.5% on adjusted operating income of $320 million compared with 16.3% in the year-ago period on operating income of $301 million. Quest Diagnostics is also progressing well with its recently introduced multi-year $500 million cost-reduction initiative.
Quest exited the quarter with $145.4 million in cash and cash equivalents, down from $164.9 million at the end of fiscal 2011. Cash flow from operations for the quarter was $161.3 million compared with $160.6 million in year-ago quarter. The company is focused on enhancing shareholder value and improving returns on capital. During the reported quarter, Quest repurchased shares worth $50 million.
The company increased its EPS guidance by 5 cents on both sides to $4.45– $4.60 for fiscal 2012. However, revenue outlook remained unchanged at 2%–2.5% growth.
Quest Diagnostics reaffirmed the guidance for 18% operating margin and $1.2 billion as cash from operations. The company now expects $200–$250 million of capital expenditure compared with previous guidance of $225-$250 million.
We appreciate Quest Diagnostics’ current focus on latent areas such as drugs-of-abuse testing, gene-based, esoteric testing for cancer, cardiovascular disease, infectious disease and neurological disorders. The company is witnessing higher demand for these tests compared to routine tests. Quest is adopting several strategies such as suitable acquisitions, increased sales force and targeting additional geographies to drive its top line.
However, the company continues to witness challenges with testing volume. Although the sequential improvement in volume took place after several quarters of significant reduction, physician office visits continue to remain under pressure, which is still disappointing.
We remain encouraged with the successful completion of the company’s long-awaited CEO succession process that started in October 2011. We expect that the management change endeavor could turn around the company’s fortunes going ahead.
We currently have a Neutral recommendation on Quest Diagnostics. The stock retains a short-term Zacks #3 Ranks (Hold rating).
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