Parents of newborns will recognize the feeling. The sun's not up yet and the morning air still holds its chill, when you're wakened in what feels like the dead of night -- with a feeling of dread.
A child is crying. Your child.
Is she wet? Has the ear infection come back? Or is she just ... hungry?
Set the water to boiling, 'cuz BABY needs a bottle
That's the way Natus Medical
Pointing a finger at the "severe worldwide economic downturn that began last year," Natus informed its shareholders that "hospitals have delayed capital equipment spending." As a result, "several large capital equipment orders that were expected to ship in the first quarter" will not do so. Expecting sales to approximate $33 million, for a 10% decline from last year's Q1, Natus chopped 12% from its midpoint guidance for the quarter.
Now, CEO Jim Hawkins still expects these sales to go through "later in the year," although that's not certain. What is certain is that we're going to see worse profits than predicted when the official results come out on April 30. Best guess at this time is that Natus will eke out a penny or two in per-share profit.
What to do with a problem child
How should investors react to this news? First, don't panic. Natus' warning puts the kibosh on Wall Street's expected $0.08-per-share quarter. But assuming Hawkins is right that these sales are only delayed, not lost, we're still looking at a company selling for about 22 times its trailing free cash flow and expected to grow its profits at 20% or so per year, long-term. That's a fair price to pay, though maybe not an out-and-out steal. At this price, I see no compelling reason either to buy or sell.
Meanwhile, though, make sure to use Natus' warning as a guidepost to what other sellers of hospital equipment may announce over the coming weeks. Fellow Motley Fool recommendations Intuitive Surgical
As with Natus, don't panic yet -- but do be careful. When companies start warning, stocks can become pricier than they seem in a hurry.
Fool contributor Rich Smith owns shares of both Natus Medical and Intuitive Surgical. Natus Medical is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems recommendation. Johnson & Johnson is an Income Investor recommendation. Hansen Medical and Intuitive Surgical are Rule Breakers selections. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.