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This year has been pretty good so far for Cerner (NASDAQ: CERN ) shareholders. As of market close on Thursday, the stock was up nearly 15% year to date. That performance just might improve now that the large health information technology company has announced its first-quarter results. Shares were up more than 1% in after-hours trading. Here are the highlights.
By the numbers
Cerner reported adjusted net earnings during the quarter of $116.9 million, or $0.66 per share. That's 24% higher than the same quarter of 2012. It also beat the consensus analysts' estimate of $0.63 per share.
GAAP earnings came in at $110 million, or $0.62 per share. That result compares with $88.7 million in earnings and diluted earnings per share of $0.51 in the first quarter of last year.
Revenue for the quarter totaled $680 million, up 6% year over year. However, that amount missed the average analysts' estimate of $708.5 million and was less than what Cerner expected.
On a more positive note, bookings set an all-time record for a first quarter. Cerner reported bookings of $801.6 million, a nice bump from the $652.3 million total recorded in the same period last year.
Behind the numbers
Let's start with the revenue miss. The culprit was lower system sales. Cerner reported almost $199 million in system sales in the first quarter, below last year's same-period total of nearly $226 million.
There were two items of good news that helped mitigate the weaker revenue. First, the company's revenue from support, maintenance, and services jumped 15% year over year to more than $466 million. Second, the margins on system sales are significantly lower than services. That means the earnings impact of the revenue miss was minimal.
Cerner's deal with King Saud University announced in January could have positively affected first-quarter results to some extent. Under the arrangement, two hospitals in Saudi Arabia will implement Cerner's Millenium system plus around 30 different Cerner solutions by mid-2014.
The company increased its full-year adjusted diluted earnings guidance to a range of $2.78 to $2.83 per share. Earlier guidance called for earnings between $2.75 and $2.82 per share. Cerner also says full-year revenue should be between $2.95 billion and $3.05 billion.Is that enough to power the stock forward?
Cerner's recent stock performance trounces that of other publicly traded companies, including Allscripts (NASDAQ: MDRX ) , Greenway Medical (NYSE: GWAY ) , and Quality Systems (NASDAQ: QSII ) . Only athenahealth (NASDAQ: ATHN ) gives Cerner a run for its money over the past year.
Cerner actually partners with several of these companies. Cerner, Allscripts, athenahealth, Greenway, and others recently formed a not-for-profit organization to promote health data interoperability.
Cerner could be the best pick of the bunch right now. On a forward price-to-earnings basis, its stock is cheaper than all but Allscripts and Quality Systems. However, both of these companies had either negative or weak revenue growth last quarter. And there's really no comparison on earnings -- Cerner definitely emerges as the winner there.
I also like that Cerner's backlog is strong. The company reported a backlog in the first quarter totaling $7.58 billion, up 21% year over year.
Cerner's CEO Neil Patterson says, "We expect 2013 to be a very good year." My hunch is that he will be right.
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