By and large, investors committed to the small-cap medical technology space are a patient and somewhat forgiving bunch. They realize it takes time to roll out new technology, and they understand that there will be bumps, and sometimes severe stock swoons, along the way. That said, CardioDynamics
Results reported by the company on Wednesday can best be described as uninspiring. Although reported sales were up 21% to $9.7 million, year-ago results didn't include the Vermid and Medis businesses, so straight-up comparisons mask the fact that "same-store" business was actually down.
In fact, ICG (impedance cardiography) revenues (which include the company's BioZ and BioZ Dx systems and Medis ICG monitors) declined by 10% from the prior year, and the company's BioZ/BioZ Dx sales were likely worse, since Medis results weren't included in the year-ago period.
Although I understand the company's explanation that a shift in sales strategy hurt sales of monitors and modules, I'm frankly more worried about the trends seen in the sensor business.
The company's ICG sensors are the "razor blades" in this business model, but sensor revenue was only $1.6 million for the quarter -- flat with the prior quarter and up only about 6% from last year. Given that the company reported some strength in average selling prices for sensors, that means usage is pretty anemic -- hardly a rousing endorsement for the company's products.
Operating expenses, on the other hand, grew by about 35% from the prior year -- led by a nearly 30% increase in marketing expenses and a 132% increase in general and administrative expenses. Even management characterized this increase as "staggering," though the culprit -- Sarbanes-Oxley compliance costs -- was largely unavoidable.
So is there still hope for this firm? Possibly.
There's no question that the company's technology works and that there is a need for this type of noninvasive monitoring. What needs to happen, though, is that the company must convince doctors of this fact and translate that need into real demand.
There's equally no question that CardioDynamics is nothing like a "widows and orphans" stock. Small-cap med-tech investments are inherently risky, and if you follow the space long enough, you will see dizzying climbs and breathtaking drops. You will also see a lot of volatility in sales and expenses in the early stages of a company's life.
So what that all means to me is this: CardioDynamics could get back on track and start positing some real growth, but there's no guarantee. For investors who can stomach the risk and accept the possibility of big losses, this stock could be an interesting speculation at this level. For investors who don't crave as much adventure in their portfolios, though, I'd suggest backing away until sales and profits are both on stronger footing.
For more on CardioDynamics, feel free to read these earlier takes:
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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).