Earnings Analysis: Quest Diagnostics Inc.

| About: Quest Diagnostics (DGX)
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Quest Diagnostics Inc. (NYSE:DGX) reports preliminary financial results for the quarter ended 2012-09-30.

Quest Diagnostics Inc. recently reported its preliminary financial results, based on which CapitalCube provides a unique peer-based analysis of the company. Our analysis is based on the company's performance over the last 12 months (unless stated otherwise).

Quest Diagnostics Inc.'s analysis versus peers uses the following peer-set: Laboratory Corp. of America Holdings (NYSE:LH), Sonic Healthcare Ltd. (OTCPK:SKHCF), Qiagen N.V. (NASDAQ:QGEN), Alere Inc. (NYSE:ALR), Genomic Health Inc. (NASDAQ:GHDX) and Bio-Reference Laboratories Inc. (NASDAQ:BRLI). The table below shows the preliminary results, along with the recent trend for revenues, net income and returns.

Quarterly (USD million) 2012-09-30 2012-06-30 2012-03-31 2011-12-31 2011-09-30
Revenues 1,851.4 1,906.8 1,936.5 1,879.3 1,906.4
Revenue Growth % (2.9) (1.5) 3.0 (1.4) 0.2
Net Income 163.1 177.8 158.8 189.9 172.1
Net Income Growth % (8.2) 11.9 (16.3) 10.3 5.2
Net Margin % 8.8 9.3 8.2 10.1 9.0
ROE % (Annualized) 16.0 18.1 16.8 21.1 19.8
ROA % (Annualized) 7.0 7.5 6.8 8.1 7.3

Valuation Drivers

Quest Diagnostics Inc.'s current Price/Book of 2.4 is about median in its peer group. We classify Quest Diagnostics Inc. as Harvesting because of the market's low expectations for growth (PE of 14.8 compared to peer median of 19.8), despite its relatively high returns (ROE of 17.9% compared to the peer median ROE of 12.4%).

The company's asset efficiency (asset turns of 0.8x) and net profit margins of 9.1% are both median for its peer group. Quest Diagnostics Inc.'s net margin has increased 2.9 percentage points from last year's low, and is now above its five-year average net margin of 8.6.

Economic Moat

Changes in the company's annual top line and earnings (1.9% and -35.1% respectively) generally lag its peers. This implies a lack of strategic focus and/or inability to execute. We view such companies as laggards relative to peers.

Quest Diagnostics Inc.'s current return on assets is around peer median (7.4% vs. peer median 6.6%). This contrasts with its higher than peer median return on assets over the past five years (7.5% vs. peer median 6.1%), suggesting that the company's relative operating performance has declined.

The company's gross margin of 44.9% is around peer median, suggesting that Quest Diagnostics Inc.'s operations do not benefit from any differentiating pricing advantage. However, Quest Diagnostics Inc.'s pre-tax margin is more than the peer median (14.9% compared to 11.1%), suggesting relatively tight control on operating costs.

Growth And Investment Strategy

Quest Diagnostics Inc.'s revenues have grown more slowly than the peer median over the last few years (1.2% vs. 9.4%, respectively for the past three years), and the stock price's relatively low PE ratio of 14.8 implies relatively low future growth as well. Overall, we view the company's growth expectations as substandard relative to its peers.

Quest Diagnostics Inc.'s annualized rate of change in capital of 4.9% over the past three years is less than its peer median of 8.9%. This investment has generated a better than peer median return on capital of 9.1% averaged over the same three years. This combination of a relatively low investment with good returns suggests that the company is likely milking its business.

Earnings Quality

Quest Diagnostics Inc.'s net income margin for the last 12 months is around the peer median (9.1% vs. peer median of 7.9%). This average margin, combined with a level of accruals that is around peer median (6.0% vs. peer median of 6.0%), suggests there possibly isn't too much accrual movement flowing into the company's reported earnings.

Quest Diagnostics Inc.'s accruals over the last 12 months are positive, suggesting a buildup of reserves. However, this level of accruals is also around the peer median, and suggests the company is recording a proper level of reserves compared to its peers.

Trend Charts

Company Profile

Quest Diagnostics, Inc. is engaged in providing diagnostic testing, information and services that help patients, physicians and others to make better healthcare decisions. It offers patients and physicians the broadest access to diagnostic laboratory services through the company's nationwide network of laboratories and patient service centers. The company was spun off from the Corning, Inc. as an independent company on December 31, 1996. Quest Diagnostics was founded in 1967 by Dr. Paul Brown and is headquartered in Madison, NJ.

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Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.