Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.
What: Invacare Corporation's (NYSE:IVC) shares surged by nearly 20% today after the company reported a fourth quarter loss, after adjusting for currency conversion and one time items, that was $0.16 better than Wall Street analyst forecasts, and investors became increasingly optimistic that Invacare's can resolve a major revenue headwind.
So what: Invacare's sales slipped 3.8% year-over-year to $318.2 million during the fourth quarter; however, restructuring to ex-out costs helped the company report a loss of $0.12 per share that was much better than the $0.28 loss that analysts were looking for.
The company's North American business continues to weigh down sales. Revenue from North American operations tumbled by 11.3% year-over-year in the fourth quarter to $124.8 million. An ongoing FDA consent decree over quality at the company's Tayler Street power wheelchair facility is a major reason for Invacare's U.S. sales slump. Due to the decree, unit volume shipped from the Taylor Street facility represents just 13.6% of the pre-decree volume in the fourth quarter of 2012. North American sales also fell due to the company's decision to exit the U.S. mobile scooter market.
European strength partially offset the North American headwinds. Net European sales increased by 1.2% to $155.3 million year-over-year in Q4 and by 4.7% to $610.6 million for the full year.
The company's better-than-feared profitability stems from an ongoing restructuring that is boosting gross margin and reducing SG&A expenses. In the fourth quarter, gross margin edged up 0.2% while SG&A costs dropped by 6.3% to $88.6 million.
During 2014, Invacare reduced its total debt outstanding by $25.7 million to $22.3 million. That reduced the company's debt to adjusted EBITDA ratio from 2.3 a year ago to 1.6 exiting December and offers tailwinds next year.
Now what: The FDA's consent decree is a major drag on Invacare's results, and that decree won't be lifted until the FDA has reviewed and accepted results from three separate independent certification audits for quality. So far, two of those audits have been accepted by the FDA, but there's no timeline for the third audit.
Once that third audit is accepted, the FDA will conduct its own evaluation. If Invacare passes that FDA evaluation, then it can reramp the facility back to full production. Given that two audits have been accepted, investors could become more confident that Invacare can satisfy the FDA. If so, then returning to full production could yield profit margin increases given the restructuring. However, since there's no timeline or certainty for the decree to be lifted, I'm content to sit this one out and watch from the sidelines.
Todd Campbell has no position in any stocks mentioned. Todd owns E.B. Capital Markets, LLC. E.B. Capital's clients may or may not have positions in the companies mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. 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.