Devices & Diagnostics

Meridian Bioscience’s Q4 earnings drop 40%, shares tumble

Diagnostic test maker Meridian Bioscience Inc. (NASDAQ:VIVO) capped a “disappointing” fiscal 2010 with fourth-quarter profits that fell below Wall Street’s expectations and sent its shares tumbling.

Diagnostic test maker Meridian Bioscience Inc. (NASDAQ:VIVO) capped a “disappointing” fiscal 2010 with fourth-quarter profits that fell below Wall Street’s expectations and sent its shares tumbling.

Fourth-quarter profits fell 40 percent to $5.3 million, or 13 cents per diluted share. Excluding special items associated with the costs of an acquisition, per-share earnings came in at 15 cents, according to a statement from the Cincinnati-based company.

Either way you look at it, Meridian’s earnings fell short of analysts’ expectations of 18 cents per share. The disappointing earnings sent the company’s share price down about 5 percent to $22.64 in late morning trading Thursday. However, the company’s shares rose about 3 percent Wednesday and still are trading fairly close to their 52-week high of $24.12.

For the full year, earnings dropped 19 percent to $27 million, while sales were down 4 percent to $143 million. Fourth-quarter sales fell 16 percent to $36 million.

CEO John Kraeutler labeled the results “disappointing” and blamed the declines on a weak flu season and multiple new competitors in its traditional C. difficile test business. C. difficile is a bacterium that can cause symptoms ranging from diarrhea to life-threatening inflammation of the colon.

Taking its testing technology the next step, Meridian launched its illumigene C. difficile molecular test in the fourth quarter. The illumigene test can detect the presence of the bacteria in a sample and deliver results within an hour, according to the company.

Meridian hopes the molecular test re-energizes its C. difficile product line, as well as provides a platform for other molecular tests.

Still, the company called its financial situation “sound” with $38 million in cash and short-term investments on its balance sheet.

Meridian reaffirmed its guidance of earnings between 77 and 82 cents per share, and $165 million to $170 million in sales for fiscal 2011.

The company is pinning its 2011 hopes on its C. difficile business, plus its HpSA tests that help to diagnose stomach ulcers and its tests for foodborne illnesses such as E. coli. It also has reduced its expectations for influenza tests in 2011, according to the statement.