Why Healthways Inc. Stock Popped

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 specialized health services company Healthways  (NASDAQ: HWAY  ) climbed 10% on Thursday after its quarterly results and outlook impressed Wall Street.

So what: Healthways shares have slumped in recent months on worries over slowing growth, but a slight Q2 beat -- adjusted EPS of $0.01 topped estimates by a penny on revenue growth of 11% -- coupled with solid full-year guidance is quickly easing those concerns. In fact, Healthways has now delivered four straight quarters of sequential-quarter revenue growth all while continuing to show solid margin improvement, suggesting that its competitive position is strengthening nicely as well.

Now what: Management reiterated its full-year revenue outlook of $730 million-$760 million with adjusted EBITDA margin in the range of 10.5%-11.5%. "Our financial results for the first half of 2014 support our growth expectations for the year," said President and CEO Ben Beedle Jr. "The signing and launch of new business, particularly our Ornish Program, coupled with the recognition of performance-based fees, which are likely to be more weighted to the fourth quarter, will be critical elements to our second-half results. We expect that continued execution in the second half will enable the achievement of our guidance for the full year, and as a result today we have affirmed our financial guidance." When you couple Healthways' still-hefty debt load with its lofty 40-plus forward P/E, however, I'd hold out for a much wider margin of safety before buying too heavily into that bullishness.

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