It's been a relatively rough year for Catamaran Corporation (NASDAQ:CTRX) so far. Just a couple of weeks ago, the pharmacy benefits manager's stock was down more than 10% and even farther away from the highs seen in 2013. After a strong third-quarter earnings report, though, the wind appears to be filling Catamaran's sails again. Here are three ways the company can sustain investors' enthusiasm.
1. Capitalize on the Cigna contract
Catamaran certainly generated buzz back in June 2013 when it landed Cigna's PBM business. Shares shot up 11% in one day. The market applauded Catamaran's outplaying larger rivals Express Scripts (NASDAQ:ESRX) and CVS Health (NYSE:CVS). Catamaran CEO Mark Thierer said that the new account would be "very accretive" to earnings.
Fast-forward to August of this year, though, and the message wasn't quite as cheerful. While Catamaran saw higher revenue from the Cigna transaction, the business wasn't very profitable. The PBM's third-quarter earnings results announced last week were good in spite of this low profitability, but gross profit margin still decreased year-over-year.
Despite these negatives, the Cigna contract still holds plenty of potential. Higher margins should be on the way as the nation's fourth-largest health insurer fully migrates its pharmacy business to Catamaran. Investors should watch for signs of how well the migration is proceeding.
2. Accumulate new accounts
Thierer stated as of the second quarter that Catamaran had "signed roughly the same amount of new business" that the company signed at that point in 2013. At first glance, that didn't sound very encouraging about the PBM's growth prospects for this year.
There's more to the story, though. Catamaran particularly excels in the mid-size market -- and the selling season for that market was just ramping up in August when Thierer made his comments. At that time, the company had hundreds of requests for proposal outstanding from mid-sized accounts. When Catamaran announced third-quarter results last week, Thierer reported new wins in the mid-size market and other segments.
Several big health plans have yet to choose who will manage their pharmacy prescriptions beginning in 2016. Those decisions should be made by the end of this year. Catamaran is in the hunt for many of these accounts. More wins should propel the stock higher.
3. Dazzle with a deal
Catamaran has been on a string of acquisitions over the last few years. Management hasn't shied away from continuing to look at other opportunities. The right mergers or acquisitions could send shares higher.
The most recent pick-up was announced only a few weeks ago. Catamaran plans to buy Salveo Specialty Pharmacy for $260 million in cash. Salveo appears to fit well with Catamaran's member-centric specialty approach. However, the acquisition didn't make a significant impact on Catamaran's share price.
It's hard to predict what potential deal could dazzle investors. And it could be a combination of multiple smaller acquisitions that do the trick rather than a single large purchase. Catamaran's management team continues to appear open to new acquisitions. One or more smart deals could be just the ticket to keep the stock price rebound going.
Smooth sailing ahead?
The company's third-quarter results announced last week helped restore investor confidence. Impressive victories in landing new accounts over the past few months made a difference.
Catamaran enjoys some long-term advantages shared by its rivals Express Scripts and CVS Health. PBMs are expected to continue to benefit from the Affordable Care Act. The rise of high-cost specialty drugs presents plenty of reasons for customers to need PBM services.
That doesn't mean that Catamaran necessarily has all smooth sailing ahead. However, these macro factors could present growth opportunities over the long run for the company if it continues to execute well.
Keith Speights owns shares of Express Scripts. The Motley Fool recommends Catamaran, CVS Health, and Express Scripts. The Motley Fool owns shares of Catamaran and Express Scripts. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.