The Securities and Exchange Commission has been poking around the company's books for about a year now, and investors feared some major restatements. Instead, they were treated to a fairly mundane report. The drug wholesaler's stock soared more than 20% Wednesday in response to the non-news.
Cardinal is not out of the woods yet. The SEC is still investigating, as are federal attorneys in New York. What's more, the company's primary business, drug distribution, is in transition from a model dependent on buying large quantities of drugs and making money by supplying medicines as prices rose, to a system in which it buys smaller quantities of drugs and charges manufacturers fees based on services rendered. The change has been rocky, and Cardinal still hasn't figured out how its new business model will work. The firm's competitors, McKesson
Cardinal may have some reason for hope in its other units, though. Its pharmaceutical technologies and services (PTS) business, in particular, could show improvement. Cardinal noted in its filing that Intercare, the sterile manufacturing company it bought at the end of 2003, has shown particular sales momentum since the deal was closed. In addition, while the PTS area saw only anemic 2% revenue growth in fiscal 2004, excluding acquisitions, the poor showing was related in part to regulatory delays, which could lift this year.
With all the negatives weighing it down, in the near term, Cardinal is not likely to climb to new heights. But it has rejoined the flock and, long term, the skies look bluer.
Fool contributor Brian Gorman is a freelance writer living in Chicago. He does not own shares of any companies mentioned here.