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Bear of the Day: Mesa Labs (MLAB)

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Mesa Labs ((MLAB - Free Report) ) is a small-cap medical provider of quality control monitoring and validation instruments serving niche markets in healthcare, industrial, pharmaceutical, medical and food processing applications.

I have followed this small company for several years and traded the stock for profits in my Healthcare Innovators portfolio.

But the recent run back to $200 in January was met with selling as their subsequent full-year outlook fell apart.

To recap, here was my December analysis when MLAB shares were trading $165...

MLAB delivered a big 107% earnings beat in early November that compelled analysts to significantly raise estimates for this year and next, thus pushing the stock into the upper realms of the Zacks Rank.

Mesa reported EPS of $2.88 per share, beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $1.39. This compares to earnings of $1.87 per share a year ago. These figures are adjusted for non-recurring items.

Upward Revisions

This snap-back was a welcome sign for investors after the prior quarter, where it was expected Mesa would post earnings of $1.95 per share when it actually produced EPS of only $1.17, delivering a negative surprise of -40%.

During the most recent stock correction in October, MLAB shares fell below $120. They then rallied sharply back above $180 on the big earnings beat.

For the full fiscal year 2023 (ends in March) analysts boosted the EPS consensus for Mesa a whopping 39% from $6.57 to $9.15, representing 29% annual growth.

Even more encouraging is that the EPS consensus for fiscal 2024 (begins in April) jumped 21% from $7.62 to $9.23.

(end of December commentary on MLAB business and financials)

While it was nice to capture the run from $165 to $200, Mesa Labs began to show signs of slowing growth, with projected sales flat near $220 million.

In the past two months since that June quarter report, EPS estimates have dropped 7% from $8.37 to $7.80, representing -6% annual growth.

In the company's early August report for their Q1 FY'24 (ends in March) they delivered quarterly earnings of $1.77 per share, beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $1.67 per share. This compares to earnings of $1.17 per share a year ago.

This quarterly report represented an earnings surprise of 5.99%. A quarter ago, it was expected that this quality control instruments and disposable products maker would post earnings of $1.98 per share when it actually produced earnings of $1.94, delivering a surprise of -2.02%.

Over the last four quarters, the company has surpassed consensus EPS estimates three times.

Mesa Labs, which belongs to the Zacks Medical-Instruments industry, posted revenues of $50.65 million for the quarter ended June 2023, missing the Zacks Consensus Estimate by 2.32%. This compares to year-ago revenues of $50.45 million. The company has topped consensus revenue estimates just once over the last four quarters.

Bottom Line for MESA: While this small-cap has an up-hill battle against other giants in diagnostics and quality testing, it may be near a valuation level where other big MedTech and BioPharma might take an M&A interest in their proven platforms.

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