Perhaps they should change the name to "Laconic Corp." Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection LabCorp
Here are just a few pieces of information missing from Tuesday's press release: There's no cash flow statement, no mention of capital expenditures, no calculation of free cash flow, and only the most abbreviated of balance sheets. It almost seems like management at this admittedly strong performer and otherwise shareholder-friendly company wants to keep its success a secret, and make investors guess at how good an investment it truly is.
Or rather, make us guess where to look to find out. As it turns out, LabCorp did provide most of the information that Fools want to see. It just didn't put it into its earnings release. For reasons unfathomable to mortal investors, the company routinely excises its cash flow information from its earnings statements, and simultaneously publishes it in a Form 8-K filed with the SEC. So to get the whole picture, we need to look in two places.
First, the earnings release. It shows LabCorp's revenue growing 6% in the first quarter of fiscal 2005, in comparison to Q1 2004. But the company translated that muted sales growth into GAAP earnings growth of nearly 11%. Even better, when you get down to the diluted per-share level, profits accruing to shareholders actually grew more than 15%. The company accomplished this neat trick by buying back shares, not issuing a bunch of new shares, and consequently reducing the number of total shares among which firm-wide profits got divvied up. In total, over the past 12 months, LabCorp has drawn down its share count by about 5%. (You may recall that LabCorp told a similar tale last quarter, when reporting its fiscal 2004 earnings.)
Next up: free cash flow. To get that information, we head over to the aforementioned 8-K, which shows LabCorp generating $154.5 million in cash from its operations, then spending $24.5 million of that on capital expenditures (that's a bit of an increase from its historical spending of about $18 million in the first quarters of the past two years), leaving $130 million in free cash flow at the end of the day. Thus, LabCorp was able to finance all $112 million worth of its share buybacks out of its own free cash flow, and still have some cash left over to help pay for its continuing series of consolidating acquisitions.
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Fool contributor Rich Smith has no position in LabCorp.