By Mary Vanac
Shares of Meridian Bioscience Inc. (NSDQ:VIVO) rebounded a bit Thursday — a day after the Cincinnati, Ohio-based diagnostics maker cut its sales and earnings outlook for the fiscal year ending in September, sending its shares down 15 percent.
Meridian shares were up 35 cents, or nearly 2 percent, to $20.37 in noontime trading. The company’s shares lost $3.67 to close at $20.08 March 17, after Meridian said second-quarter sales of test kits for upper-respiratory infections had “collapsed” because of the abrupt end of the H1N1influenza virus pandemic in early December 2009. Those sales had risen 83 percent during 2009 as the world dealt with the Swine Flu pandemic.
Meridian said it now expects diluted earnings per share of between 70 cents and 80 cents for the fiscal year ending March 31, down from its prior guidance of 90 cents to 95 cents. Sales expectations have been cut to between $145 million and $153 million, from a range of $160 million to $165 million.
The company said preliminary second-quarter results for the three months ended Dec. 31, 2009, show net sales of between $30 million and $33 million and diluted earnings per share of between 13 cents and 15 cents. Although Meridian does not provide quarterly sales and earnings guidance, the company said securities analysts have estimated net sales in the range of $37.2 million to $39 million, and diluted earnings per share between 21 cents and 22 cents.
Analysts’ consensus median estimate for net sales was $38.6 million, Meridian said, while the consensus median diluted earnings per share estimate was 22 cents. During last year’s second quarter, Meridian posted net sales of $33.3 million and diluted earnings per share of 18 cents.
Meridian management intends to recommend to the company’s board that it keep its 76-cent-a-share annual dividend.
In addition to the drop in upper-respiratory test sales, the company was challenged to keep its leading market share for C. difficile tests. Increased competition from traditional tests and emerging molecular tests cut into Meridian’s sales in the first half of fiscal 2010. The company is hoping its Illumigene C. difficile product “will provide a strong competitive response” when it’s introduced later this year.