Shares of Sensei robotic-catheter maker Hansen Medical
But is the run-up for real?
Bulls would argue that it's not only for real -- it's also not done yet. On June 29, investment banker Piper Jaffray urged investors to buy Hansen in anticipation of a new vascular robotic system's gaining FDA approval. Piper posited a $5 stock price for Hansen shares, suggesting there's another 10 percentage points' worth of profit left in the stock.
Bears, on the other hand, have at least three reasons to distrust Hansen's run-up. For one thing, there's the record of the analyst who helped spark it. According to our CAPS records, Piper Jaffray is one of the least accurate medical-device stock pickers out there, getting nearly twice as many of its recommendations wrong as right.
For another, stent-sales growth has decelerated, a trend that led Johnson & Johnson
Most crucial are the issues with Hansen itself. Unprofitable today, burning cash, and with losses expected to grow throughout 2011 and into 2012, Hansen depends greatly on the kindness of strangers. Until it can pay its own way, the company must find lenders or new share-buyers willing to give it money -- or else close up shop. Current cash levels are good only to keep the company in business for about 18 months at current burn rates. After that -- expect dilution.
Hansen is a prototypical ground-floor stock. Early adopters are flocking to it in hopes of owning a winner early, before it generates the kinds of profits that attract the rest of us investors -- and drive up the stock price. It's a high-risk, high-reward strategy. My biggest fear: Hansen may not survive long enough to pay off.
Do you think Hansen has a future? Head over to Motley Fool CAPS now, and tell us why.
Fool contributor Rich Smith owns no shares of any company named above. The Motley Fool owns shares of Abbott Laboratories, Medtronic, and Johnson & Johnson. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Abbott Laboratories and Johnson & Johnson and creating a diagonal call position in Johnson & Johnson.
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