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Soft Sales Zap Zimmer

Matria (MATR), Zimmer (ZMH) and Express Scripts (ESRX) are all hurting after disappointing investors with their latest quarterly updates.

The big healthcare players saw their shares drop sharply Thursday after mixed performances on the earnings front, as the stock market swooned under rising fears tied to the debt markets.

Matria suffered the most pain, by far, as its stock weathered a double-digit percentage loss on reduced full-year guidance. The company, a specialist in disease management and wellness services, now expects to generate 2007 sales of just $355 million to $363 million -- well below the $374 million consensus estimate -- due to delays in some major contracts. The company lowered its full-year profit outlook by 14% to $1.42 to $1.55 a share, excluding stock-option expenses, as well.

After watching Matria set the bar too high in the past, Wall Street experts have seen their fears play out once again.

"Our biggest concern with Matria had been the projected earnings ramp in the back half of the year," Credit Suisse analyst Michael Glynn wrote on Thursday. "While this concern is reduced with the new guidance range, we are perplexed at how two new accounts could affect earnings so much.

"We are concerned there are other fundamental factors."

Therefore, Glynn remains on the sidelines with a neutral rating on Matria's stock. His firm has investment banking ties to the company.

Meanwhile, Matria claimed that it met expectations for the second quarter. However, the company's revenue of $88.1 million and its operating profits of 22 cents a share actually fell a bit shy of consensus estimates.

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