Aspect Gives Investors Nightmares

I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that more than a few Aspect Medical (Nasdaq: ASPM  ) shareholders are seriously ticked off right now. Seeing your stock go from $35 to less than $16 in about five months will do that. For what it's worth, there's really nothing new or different about the big-picture Aspect Medical story, and these sorts of moves are not at all uncommon in the world of small-cap med-tech.

Aspect reported a reasonable quarter. Total revenue grew 21%, and gross margins expanded on both a GAAP and non-GAAP basis. While operating and net income results differ meaningfully, depending on whether you use GAAP or non-GAAP, there was growth in either case. The company also continues to place more units -- the ultimate driver of this razor/razor-blade business model.

The trouble for Aspect, as with many emerging med-tech companies, is guidance. Management trimmed its guidance a little, and the market trimmed its market cap a lot. Some of that is quasi-rational -- if you try to value stocks like Aspect with discounted cash flow analysis, you ultimately have to make some pretty hefty growth projections, and even modest revisions to those estimates that can take the resulting "fair value" down quite a bit.

But the fact remains that this is a technology leader in a market with only one real competitor. And that competitor, large medical products company Hospira (NYSE: HSP  ) , seems to possess neither red-hot technology nor a burning desire to maximize it. What's more, Boston Scientific (NYSE: BSX  ) remains a very interested shareholder in the company, and penetration of Aspect's technology isn't even close to 50% in surgical procedures.

If you bought Aspect shares without fully appreciating how volatile med-tech can be (check out longer-term charts of Kyphon (Nasdaq: KYPH  ) , VNUS (Nasdaq: VNUS  ) , or Conceptus (Nasdaq: CPTS  ) sometime), you have my sympathy. But in truth, this is still a growing company with promising technology in an underserved market. Exercising patience may not always be fun, but it's often mandatory if you're going to invest successfully in med-tech for the long haul.

For more medical missives from The Motley Fool:

Aspect Medical is arecommendation of Motley Fool Rule Breakers, the newsletter service that tracks companies shaking things up. If you'd like to see what other innovators David Gardner has recommended, try out Rule Breakers free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).


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