Why Akorn, Inc. Shares Were Cracked

Akorn shares tumble after the company reports its fourth-quarter earnings results. Is this dip the perfect buying opportunity or all the more reason to keep your distance?

Mar 3, 2014 at 1:22PM

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

What: Shares of Akorn (NASDAQ:AKRX), a branded and generic developer of pharmaceutical products ranging from ophthalmic and hospital indications to injectable pharmaceuticals, fell as much as 18% after reporting its fourth-quarter earnings results before the opening bell this morning.

So what: For the quarter, Akorn delivered revenue growth of 19% to $85 million, which was driven primarily by new products launched in late 2012 or the beginning of 2013. Its adjusted profit rose more modestly, to $0.14 per share from $0.13 in the year-ago period, as gross margin dipped 340 basis points to 55.3%. By comparison, Wall Street expected Akorn to report just $83.4 million in revenue on $0.14 in EPS. Looking toward fiscal 2014 is where Akorn ran into problems by issuing full-year guidance of $540 million-$560 million in revenue and $0.76-$0.79 in EPS. The current consensus has been calling for just $501 million in revenue (a significant beat), but EPS of $0.86 (a hefty shortfall).

Furthermore, Akorn filed an extension for form 10-K, its annual report, because it "has not completed its testing and assessment of the effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting due in part to identified control deficiencies related to completeness and accuracy of underlying data used in the determination of certain significant estimates and accounting transactions as well as the existence of inadequate segregation of duties."

Now what: There are certainly a number of factors here for shareholders to be displeased with, including its 10-K extension, which could make some investors question the integrity of the results, as well as its weak full-year EPS guidance, which only reinforces that gross margin weakness is going to continue into fiscal 2014.

However, I see today's dip as a possible buying opportunity for those investors with a longer-term view. Akorn is a hybrid pharmaceutical provider in that it develops both branded and generic products. The advantage is that it's able to bask in the high gross margins of branded drugs while also reveling in the seemingly endless pipeline that generic drugs can bring to the table. Higher sales from generic drugs is going to bring margins down, but that's not necessarily a bad thing if Akorn can keep its sales volume moving higher by double digits. With a growth rate that I suspect can remain in the double digits for years to come, I'd suggest adding Akorn to your watchlist and giving it a closer look.

Akorn shares have soared over the past year, but even it may have trouble keeping up with this top stock in 2014
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Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong.

The Motley Fool has no position in any companies mentioned in this article. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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