Aceto Stock Doubles: Just Don't Ask How

| About: Aceto Corporation (ACET)

By Dee Gill

A doubling of Aceto’s (NASDAQ:ACET) share price this year has given investors good reason to get interested in the small pharmaceutical supplier. After some stumbling in 2011, a strategic restructuring led to record revenue and profits this fiscal year. But good luck getting useful guidance from the company about business going forward.

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ACET data by YCharts

Aceto, with about $500 million in annual revenue, doesn’t divulge details about what it sells, its business operations or its financial forecasts. YCharts discussed this frustrating style as the company geared up for this strategic shift in 2011, which turned the company’s focus away from agriculture toward products for humans. About 72% of profits now come from stuff made for human consumption, mainly generic drugs and ingredients sold to make those and supplements. Although the plans looked promising two years ago, the secrecy made the company hard to endorse.

Broadly, things have obviously gone well. After the 2011 acquisition of generic drug maker Rising Pharmaceuitcals, sales in Aceto’s human health division have skyrocketed. Sales in its ingredients division have soared on an expansion into Europe. Its performance chemicals sales are down slightly but profits there are up.

ACET Net Income (NYSE:<a href='' title='Tata Motors Limited'>TTM</a>) Chart
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ACET Net Income (TTM) data by YCharts

Yet Aceto’s disclosures continue to be comically obfuscated and seriously frustrating for investors. Aceto reports three broad divisions, but will not clarify how much of revenue comes from particular products (like generic drugs). CEO Salvatore Guccione was delighted to report this month in the earnings call that Rising launched its fist new product of 2014, but he would not even confirm that the product was a generic drug. He noted that the revenues got a big boost from one particular ingredient order and warned that he expected more “normalized” order patterns in the future. When an analyst pointed out that no one knows what “normalized” is for this company now and pleaded for help in forecasting, Guccione reiterated company policy.

“As you know, we just -- we don't get give specific guidance. Our business is not an easy one to predict quarter-to-quarter and so we just don't,” he said, according to the transcript. He added that while they didn’t know what the next quarters will bring, they feel good about the year.

So many public company CEOs would love to leave their own earnings calls with that. Who wants to be accountable for a forecast?

Only two industry analysts officially play along with Aceto, and obviously, some investors have gotten rich by doing so as well. But with its concerted secrecy around hard numbers needed to employ equity research tools, Aceto isn’t the best candidate for serious investors.