Whatever happened to VISX
Second-quarter earnings soared 133% to $9.5 million, or $0.19, from $4.1 million the year before on a 34% rise in revenues to $43 million. Licensing revenues, which account for roughly three-fourths of the total and nearly all of the growth in the top line, rose 51% to $30.2 million amid a healthy 18% increase in procedure volume (after a 20% rise last quarter) and a continued transition toward the popular (and higher-margin) CustomVue procedure.
A growing number (currently 35%) of VISX patients have opted for CustomVue, which analyzes minute refractive errors in the eye and provides a customized procedure far more precise than standard LASIK. Though rival Alcon
Through the first six months of the year, VISX has made strides in cost containment. Total costs and expenses, which include SG&A, R&D, and possibly a few other acronyms, fell from 80% of revenues to 60%, lifting operating income 164% to $34.5 million. Research and development is the one area where cutting corners can be inadvisable, and VISX devotes a substantial portion of revenues in this direction to ensure that the company doesn't lag behind competitors such as Alcon, Bausch & Lomb
Unlike many beaten-up technology companies that have yet to recover, VISX has weathered some lean times, but through it all it has managed to avoid any red ink. Now that demand for vision-correction surgery has picked up, the company has really begun to post some eye-opening numbers. Though 6 million Americans have received the elective procedure, both the domestic and international markets still remain largely untapped.
Management's sanguine outlook is another cause for optimism. Full-year guidance was recently lifted, and earnings per share are now forecast to grow by better than 70%, with a target in the $0.78 to $0.81 range. VISX has a pristine balance sheet ($114 million in cash with no debt), ample free cash flows, generous margins, and two consecutive quarters of triple-digit EPS gains. Numbers such as those capture the attention of even the most myopic of investors.
Fool contributor Nathan Slaughter would like to apologize for the two puns used in the making of this article. He owns none of the companies mentioned.