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Health Stocks in Motion

Updated from 3:33 p.m. EDT

Shares of Gentiva Health Services (GTIV) were among the worst-performing health-related stocks Thursday, falling 16.4% after the company posted first-quarter earnings and sales that disappointed Wall Street.

The provider of home health services posted earnings of $4.1 million, or 17 cents a share, on sales of $207.1 million. Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call were expecting earnings of 21 cents a share on sales of $217.8 million. A year ago the company reported adjusted earnings of $4.3 million, or 16 cents a share, on sales of $205.9 million, which excludes special items.

Looking ahead, Gentiva now expects 2005 earnings of 75 cents to 83 cents a share, up from previous guidance of 72 cents to 80 cents a share. Part of the company's upward revision is due to a delay in the implementation of accounting rules on stock-based compensation, which will now go into affect during fiscal 2006, instead of the second half of 2005. The accounting change would have increased expenses by 6 cents to 8 cents a share.

The company also said that its outlook is based on the acquisition of Heritage Home Care Services, a conservative view regarding sales from its Cigna relationship -- based on first-quarter results -- and the company's decision to invest in clinical capacity and branch operations. Gentiva backed its 2005 sales estimate of $870 million to $890 million. Analysts are expecting earnings of 83 cents a share on sales of $893 million. Shares traded down $3.42 to $17.41.

Bentley Pharmaceuticals (BNT) rose 22.6% after the company posted first-quarter results that easily topped expectations. The drug delivery company earned $2.2 million, or 10 cents a share, on sales of $24.2 million. Analysts were expecting earnings of 5 cents a share on sales of $20.1 million. Results were helped by sales volume growth in Spain, a strengthening of the euro against the dollar and continued growth in pharmaceutical sales to licensees, both in Spain and outside of Spain. A year ago the company earned $800,000, or 4 cents a share, on sales of $17.3 million. Shares traded up $1.71 to $9.29.

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