Baxter International (BAX) is slated to report its first-quarter 2012 results on Thursday, April 19. The current Zacks Consensus Estimate for the quarter is $0.99, representing an estimated 1.38% annualized increase.
Fourth Quarter Recap
Baxter reported fourth quarter adjusted (excluding one-time items) earnings per share of $1.17, just beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $1.16, and surpassing the year-ago earnings of $1.11. Reported net income increased to $463 million (or 82 per share) from $423 million (or 72 a share) a year ago.
Total revenues were $3,594 million, up 3% year over year, beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $3,578 million. U.S. revenues for the quarter inched up 2% to $1,466 million while ex-U.S. sales were higher 3% (up 3% in constant currency) to $2,128 million.
The Plasma Proteins business, where Baxter had encountered structural problems in the past, did not do so well with revenues of $397 million, down 4% (down 2% in constant currency) year over year. Antibody Therapy delivered good results with sales of $406 million, climbing 5% (up 6% in constant currency) year over year.
Estimate Revision Trend
The overall trend in estimate revisions for Baxter demonstrated little activity in the recent past. Of the 14 analysts covering the stock, only 1 changed his/her estimate (in the upward direction), for the current quarter, over the prior week and past month. The same pattern was repeated (by 17 analysts covering the stock), for the current year. The current Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2012 is $4.54, reflecting an estimated 5.23% year-over-year increase.
Given the general shortage of estimate revisions, the magnitude of revisions, for the forthcoming quarter, has hit a plateau over the last week and month. The estimate for fiscal 2012 has moved up by only a penny over the prior week and month.
Baxter has produced positive surprises in three of the previous four quarters and we expect a similar trend to continue. The company produced an average earnings surprise of 3.74% over the prior four quarters, meaning that it beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate by that measure.
The news regarding Baxter still remains mixed. On the positive side, Baxter’s focus on life-sustaining products, which are not commoditized, partly insulates it from an economic downturn. The company is able to generate recurring revenues, and consistent cash flow, due to its focus on chronic diseases. Among other positive factors, Baxter retains a strong product pipeline with several products in late-stage clinical development.
Baxter, in November 2011, completed its acquisition of Baxa Corporation. The takeover highlights the company’s continued commitment toward patient safety and nutrition. It also permits Baxter to provide a wider set of solutions for the safe preparation and delivery of IV medication. Baxa’s know-how will benefit patients across the globe.
Moreover, Baxter struck a deal, in December 2011, to buy Synovis Life Technologies (SYNO), a well-known provider of mechanical and biological products for the repair of soft tissue utilized in a large number of surgical operations. The acquisition will further expand Baxter’s offerings in the area of biosurgery and regenerative treatment.
On the flip side, despite resilience in Plasma Proteins and Antibody Therapy sub-segments, we are concerned about stagnation in sales, a slightly somber outlook for hospital spending and tightening of reimbursement. We also account for the unfavorable impact of foreign exchange translation and possible dilution associated with the company’s acquisitions of Baxa and Synovis.
Improved execution has lifted sentiment somewhat toward Baxter. It is a good bet for value investors willing to wait as fundamentals improve further. Among others, the company competes with Becton, Dickinson and Company (BDX) in certain niches. We currently have a Neutral long-term rating on Baxter. The stock currently retains a Zacks #2 Rank, which translates into a short-term “Buy” recommendation.