China Medical Technologies (CMED) delivered a blowout quarter once again when it announced financial result for its fiscal second quarter [ending September 30] in mid November. Top line and bottom line grew at 49.2% and 67.0% on gross and net margins of 71.9% and 54.5%, respectively.
This young Chinese company has a track record of excellent financial performance. For the past five quarters since its IPO, CMED has reported revenue growth that ranged between 48.0% and 81.8% and net income growth that ranged between 41.7% and 75.0%. For the past nine quarters [including four before IPO] since it first made a profit, it has recorded a gross margin from 69.8% to 71.9% and net margin from 48.7% to 61.8%. Seven out of the nine quarters had a gross margin of above 70%.
CMED also has a very solid balance sheet. As of Q2, the current ratio and quick ratio stood at 7.29 and 7.18, respectively. The company carried no long-term debt, and the cash to equity ratio stood at 69.1% making it a highly liquid company. However, the same good cash-rich virtue has also made its ROE [Return on Equity] mediocre, which stood at 17.94% [trailing annual figure] as of end of Q2.
To fuel further growth, the company has just closed an offering of $150M worth of convertible bond. $30M of the net proceeds was used to buy back the company’s shares. The bulk of what remains, potentially along with part of the cash reserve, will be used to acquire advanced IVD businesses and technologies. Obviously this will increase the debt/equity ratio [from zero now] significantly going forward. However, investment return from both the debt and the higher utilization of equity should serve to increase ROE and total return over the long term.
Based on the company’s Q2 earnings conference call, recent press releases, and my own communication with the company, it is clear to me that CMED is positioning itself to be a global player in the Medical Devices arena through the implementation of a coherent set of short, intermediate, and long-term growth strategies. The following is a run down of the strategies being implemented by the company.
I define short-term strategies as measures that produce result immediately, but might also have a positive impact longer term as well.
o The company recently phased out their second generation [2G] High Intensity Focused Ultrasound [HIFU] system and replaced it with a new third generation [3G] system. The new 3G HIFU system is capable of real time tissue temperature monitoring and respiration control. According to the company, the real time temperature monitoring is a first in the world. With this new capability, CMED raised the selling price of HIFU system by 6% starting September.
o They rolled out a new version of semi-automatic Enhanced Chemiluminescence Immunoassay [ECLIA] system. This will enable them to penetrate medium-sized hospitals, which has a higher buying volume and utilization rate for the ECLIA reagent kits they are also selling, thus increasing recurring revenue at higher margin [reagents have a higher gross margin].
Note that these business actions also have positive, intermediate to long-term impacts. The 3G HIFU system might be able to generate sales for CMED for a few years. The new semi-automatic ECLIA system might continue to be sold to smaller hospitals with less capital resources, even after they roll out afully automatic system mid next year [more below].
The new semi-automatic ECLIA system increases material cost by 60%. However, CMED is selling them at similar price as the old [also semi-automatic] system. This will decrease gross margin on ECLIA systems. However, the company expects this to be offset by the increased margin from the 6% price increase in HIFU systems, which account for 60% of revenue now. By maintaining the price of the new ECLIA system, CMED is also maintaining the sales momentum of the ECLIA business. This can be a smart decision since increasing installation of ECLIA analyzers also increases the recurring revenue from the sales of ECLIA reagent kits. Particularly when you realize that CMED’s reagent revenue has now surpassed the system revenues. As of Q2, reagent sales account for 60% of the entire ECLIA revenue.
Intermediate and Long-Term Strategies
These are what will produce result in the intermediate term [a few months to one year or so] but also have a far-reaching effect over the long term.
o They have developed a fully automatic ECLIA system, to be rolled out pending approval by the Chinese FDA. They submitted application in Q2 and expect approval in mid 2007. With this system CMED is targeting large and medium sized hospitals. This space is currently dominated by major multinational giants such as Abbot, Bayer AG, Johnson & John, Roche, DPC, and so on. Entering this space means they will be competing head to head with these global giants. However CMED is optimistic it can win the competition with its cost advantages and strong distribution network that has been in place and expanding.
o They are expanding their ECLIA reagent portfolio. As of end of Q2 they are selling 56 reagents. But they are aiming to expand to 70 reagents in 12 months. New reagents cover HIV, hepatitis related diseases, fertility, Down syndrome, etc. With this broad portfolio, they are well positioned to sell to major hospitals. It is noteworthy that their reagents can also be used with the ECLIA analyzers produced by other vendors, including those produced by the major multinationals mentioned above.
o CMED will complete the construction of a Good Manufacturing Practice [GMP] facility in early 2007 to expand the production capacity for ECLIA reagents. Total capital outlay of this project is $6M. Again, they understand that the ECLIA analyzers manufactured by CMED or any other vendor need recurring reagent supplies. This is their strategy to profit from the growing reagent demand.
o As mentioned before, they have issued $150M worth of convertible bonds. The main purpose of this transaction is to finance the acquisition of advanced In-vitro Diagnostics [IVD] technologies that have been proven in US and Europe but have no penetration in China yet. They have specific acquisition plan and target. But they will not disclose full details until time is right. One area they could have been looking at is molecular diagnostic techs. Their objective is to leverage their cost advantage and distribution network to bring these high growth, revenue-recurring techs into China.
It is hard to set a time frame at this point, but this what I see that will bring long-term benefit to the company.
o CMED is seeking FDA [U.S.] approval for HIFU treatment of pancreatic cancer. Animal test has been completed and an Investigational Device Exemption [IDE] application will be submitted in early Jan. 2007. They also have plan to pursue other indications in the future.
o They have struck an agreement with Century Medical to distribute HIFU systems in Japan. CMED plans to use the data from the U.S. clinical trials to apply for “shonin” [a marketing authorization approval].
o They have signed a ten-year partnership agreement with Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Acoustics to build a medical research lab to develop new acoustic medical devices. The initiative can explore diagnostic and therapeutic applications in non-oncology areas. The new lab will serve as CMED's incubator for new commercial acoustic technologies.
IVD is the key focus of the company, from the current emphasis on ECLIA reagents to the longer-term pursuit of advanced IVD techs. This is because of the high growth, high margin, and recurring revenue characteristics of this business segment. The strategies laid out above reflect the company’s objectives to expand their IVD business into medium and large Chinese hospitals, expand IVD portfolio, improve HIFU technology, develop and commercialize new acoustic medical devices, and enter international markets. They have the potential to sustain the company’s growth while improving ROE, thus increasing shareholder values. As a shareholder, I feel encouraged by the company’s vision and clear growth path.
Disclosure: Author is long CMED.
CMED 1-yr chart