Sometimes you can be right, but just a little early with your call. That seems to be the case with my prediction for aesthetic laser maker Candela
Last September, I attempted divine a forecast based on numbers the company had put up on its website, but not stated publicly. Those numbers suggested that its fourth quarter was worse than what the annual numbers showed, and that certain key markets were performing horribly. With the first quarter typically being one of Candela's weakest, I predicted that investors shouldn't expect much for the first half of the year. Considering that Candela was introducing products late in the calendar year, sales might not show up, as doctors and others held off on purchases and waited for the new products to appear.
When the first quarter came around, however, everyone was surprised by the strength Candela showed. Yet even then, I was skeptical; operating results were far below the prior year's numbers, and expenses were soaring.
At last, it seems the chickens came home to roost in the second quarter. Candela reported results that were, in a word, horrible. Sales were flat (down a few thousand, actually), and profits were even worse, decimated by huge jumps in operating expenses, particularly R&D. You can get the raw data here with my Fool by Numbers article.
Disappointment abounded at the laser manufacturer. U.S. sales were down, as a spa group that had been regularly buying product all but stopped. Distributor McKesson
To compensate for its previous rosy predictions of 15% growth -- the rate at which Candela estimated the industry was growing, and at which it simply assumed it would also grow -- management cut that expectation in half for the full year. Now it hopes to have 7% to 9% growth for the second half of the fiscal year. Don't go pinning your hat onto that number yet, either.
When you listen to a Candela presentation, you've got to be pretty limber for all the mental gymnastics you're required to perform -- all to guess what management is really saying. When CEO Gerard Puorro said the company hadn't been notified that it was violating Palomar Medical Technologies'
So when Puorro says Candela is expecting 7% to 9% growth, don't think that means he's actually got some firm basis for the prediction. Instead, Candela is coming out with a suite of new products that will be unveiled at the American Academy of Dermatology conference in a few weeks; their reception there could determine future growth. Candela's had two other product launches at the AAD; only one proved successful. With a track record like that, it's just easier pull numbers out of the air.
Candela apparently likes to do just that. The company used to assign percentages to the uses for its lasers: hair removal, vascular remediation, tattoo removal, etc. Then it was revealed that Candela had no way of knowing what doctors used lasers for, and just assigned numbers as it liked. And don't forget the time the company reported lower sales numbers, but claimed it was stealing market share. The fuzzy math this company uses to justify its numbers is enough to tickle your nose.
So while I had predicted the first half of the fiscal year would be a bummer, I was just a little early. Now, though, the second half isn't looking so bright, either. If the legal wrangling with Palomar turns against it, Candela's beam could be going out.
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Fool contributor Rich Duprey wonders why he continues to own shares in Candela, and yet, he does. However, he does not own any of the other stocks mentioned in this article. You can see his holdings here. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.