Take the Long-Term View on ExOne Co.

ExOne's first quarter results disappointed Wall Street, but I still love its long-term story.

May 15, 2014 at 8:31PM

For shareholders of The ExOne Company (NASDAQ:XONE), days like today are hard to stomach.

Shares of ExOne plunged more than 16% this morning after the additive manufacturing specialist's first-quarter results badly missed expectations. Revenue fell 8% year over year to $7.3 million, which translated to a wider net loss of $0.38 per share. Analysts, on average, were looking for a net loss of just $0.12 per share on sales of $9.87 million.

Now, with ExOne having officially fallen short of estimates in every single quarter since going public early last year, shares are trading within spitting distance of a new 52-week low.

Perspective is in order
Then again, quarters like this are exactly why ExOne avoids providing quarterly guidance. 

Remember, ExOne focuses on selling high-end industrial 3-D printers with an exceedingly large per-unit price tag. In short -- and this early in ExOne's long-term story -- this means dealing with long sales cycles and chunky quarterly revenue.

To be sure, one-third of last quarter's revenue -- or $2.4 million -- came from the sale of just three 3-D printers, including one S-Max unit and one S-15 machine sold to European customers, and a single M-Flex unit sold in the United States. By comparison, last year's first quarter saw five machines sold -- including four 3-D printers and one laser machine -- for $4.2 million.

But this doesn't mean ExOne is a failing business.

First, keep in mind ExOne's first-quarter sales from 3-D printed products, materials, and production service centers actually rose by 37% year over year to $3.7 million. In addition, while ExOne consistently opts not to predict its quarterly performance, as analysts insist on doing, it continues to expect full-year 2014 revenue to grow 40%-50% to a range of $55 million-$60 million -- the mid-point of which sits just above analysts' consensus for 2014 sales of $56.98 million.

To be fair, ExOne did reduce its 2014 gross margin guidance to between 40% and 43%, down from the previous expected range of between 43% and 46%. But ExOne also explained that it's the result of developmental costs associated with its new ExCast initiative, which could generate an additional $50 million to $60 million in revenue next year alone. And that's why fellow Fool Blake Bos recently insisted ExCast is "of utmost importance for the company to succeed over the long-term, satisfy investor's expectations, and drive the stock price higher."

Foolish takeaway
Don't get me wrong. I'll readily admit it hurts to see stocks we recommend fall this much in a single day. But in ExOne's case, I see nothing to indicate its long-term story is broken. As a result, if shares continue to remain depressed over the next few days, I intend to add ExOne to my personal portfolio as soon as the Fool's trading restrictions allow.

China is no match for Star Trek tech
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Steve Symington has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends ExOne. The Motley Fool owns shares of ExOne. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not 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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