Shares of Inverness Medical Innovations Inc. jumped in early trading today as the Waltham diagnostic test maker beat analyst’s first-quarter expectations and investors pumped money into companies poised to profit from the swine flu outbreak.
The Waltham-based maker of rapid diagnostic kits blamed a “relatively mild” flu season for hurting sales in its professional diagnostics segment last quarter. But that was before news that a deadly flu strain which killed more than 100 people in Mexico spread as far north as New York City and as far east as Spain.
Inverness posted sales of $444 million for the quarter, up 19.4 percent compared with $372 million during the first quarter of 2008. The jump was attributed to the company’s health management segment, which makes a clutch of women’s health, oncology and children’s health products. Overall, the segment posted roughly $77 million in sales for the period ending March 31.
That strong performance helped Inverness transform its $4.2 million net loss from the 2008 first quarter to $6.3 million in Q1 profits this year.
CEO Ron Zwanziger told analysts on a conference call that the slow flu season last winter, combined with a reduction in doctor’s visits, tempered sales for the quarter.
Sales for the company’s professional diagnostics segment, which makes tests to detect influenza, slipped 3.1 percent to $251 million, compared to $259 million for the same period last year. Even so, CFO David Scott said he doesn’t expect the company to suffer any long-term effects from increased inventory this year.
Zwanziger said that the company is in touch with the federal Centers for Disease Control about the swine flu outbreak and stands ready to respond. The company develops a wide variety of point-of-care tests for Influenza A/B.
“We have the inventory and we can turn up production at a moment’s notice if it’s necessary, but let’s hope it’s not needed,” he said.
Although early indications are that the swine flu is an “A” class influenza, which the company’s tests could detect, Zwanziger wouldn’t say whether the tests are indicated for that specific strain. But the company could easily ramp up production if the tests were needed on a mass scale, he added.