What happened

Shares of Patterson Companies (NASDAQ:PDCO) are up 4.4% at 12:45 p.m. EDT, having been up as much as 12.1%, after the dental and animal health company announced results of its fourth fiscal quarter that ended on April 28.

Rather than being a case of Patterson hitting the ball out of the park, today's increase is more like investors cheering because it didn't strike out. At this point, they'll happily take the bloop single and hope for better results in the next inning.

So what

This time last year, management was looking for adjusted earnings for recently completed fiscal year of $2.25 to $2.40 per year. By the second-quarter report, expectations had fallen to $2.00 to $2.10 per share. And after the third quarter, management was only guiding for $1.65 to $1.70 per share.

Patterson was able to hit that revised-revised range with non-GAAP earnings of $1.68 for the fiscal year. Break out the peanuts and Cracker Jacks.

Dentist examining a patient's teeth

Image source: Getty Images.

Internal sales, which adjust for changes in currencies and selling relationships, were down 3.3% in the fourth quarter with the dental segment dragging down the company average, dropping 10.5% year over year. Management blamed a realignment of its sales force, transition of its enterprise resource planning platform, and dentists continuing to transition to digital equipment.

The larger animal health division isn't exactly stealing any bases with internal sales of the division up 2.4%, but at least sales aren't declining.

Now what

Management is looking for a little growth in the upcoming fiscal year with adjusted earnings expected to be in the $1.73 to $1.83 range, although the growth is likely to come in the back half of the year as it's still facing a tough comparator for the first fiscal quarter.

Today's results are a good start to the turnaround, but risk-averse investors should be careful as it's likely a long road back, especially with antitrust violation allegations hanging over the company.