What's worse than a company having to lower earnings guidance for a year? When the company has also increased guidance three times beforehand. Yesterday, laser vision-improvement company LCA-Vision
LCA started 2006 by predicting $1.65-$1.75 in EPS for the year, then guided for higher earnings twice in the past two quarters. Yesterday, the company dropped the hammer on investors, announcing that EPS will be in the range of $1.60-$1.70 for the year because of "softer" third-quarter revenues and a marketing campaign that didn't turn in the expected results. Investors reacted accordingly, sending shares of this LasikPlus vision operator down 25%.
Investors in LCA can rest assured that not all of yesterday's news was terrible. The company still expects overall revenue to grow 25%-30% in the second half of the year. But with this latest earnings revision, EPS will only grow 12% (at the midpoint of $1.65 in EPS) from 2005's EPS of $1.47.
In the first half of 2006, LCA has already achieved $1.12 in EPS, which implies only $0.48-$0.58 in earnings per share for the second half of 2006. There is definitely seasonality in LCA's business, but with revenues growing so robustly, I'd like more information about what is causing this compression in EPS for the second half of the year.
Luckily, LCA's management hasn't done anything silly, like selling a bunch of options, in the past couple of months. Such a move is one of the quickest ways to attract the lawsuit sharks after all those changes in EPS projections.
The other news yesterday was the announcement that the company's president was stepping down. These types of actions can be harbingers of further bad news to come, but there are no signs of anything like that in this case.
The most likely reason for all the earnings revisions and upheaval at the company is the lack of stability at the upper management levels. LCA's board of directors needs to find a permanent CEO, so that interim CEO Craig Joffe isn't overburdened by his roles as CEO, COO, and general counsel. Thankfully, the company expects to announce the hiring of a permanent replacement in the next three weeks.
We'll learn more about the cause of the company's earnings revision, and what the rest of the year will look like, on Tuesday, Oct. 24, when LCA releases all third-quarter operating results. For now, all LCA investors can do is hope that the company continues to grow its business and gets a better handle on its financial prognostications.