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Cosmetic Surgery Stocks Keep Stiff Upper Lip

Stocks in this article: AGNMNTMRX

The share moves of companies that practice aesthetic medicine have been downright ugly in the past year.

Over the last 12 months, the providers of breast implants, anti-wrinkle products and liposuction equipment have traded below the Amex Pharmaceutical index of large drug companies.

Allergan (AGN) was down 35%, Mentor (MNT) was off 63%, and Medicis Pharmaceutical (MRX) was down 54% for the 12 months ended Oct. 21.

The Amex index was off 23% for this period, while the S&P 500 was down nearly 37%.

Although each company has a unique set of circumstances, the common theme for their sagging stocks is the economy. Because many of their products and treatments don't receive insurance coverage, their share prices have declined with consumers' decisions to postpone or delay personal makeovers.

"Some portions of their businesses are exposed to discretionary consumer spending, and the economy affects products differently," says Jeff Viksjo of the independent financial research firm Morningstar.

When the economy skids, he says, people will postpone cosmetic breast implant surgery. Also, customers may take longer than usual in seeking the next in a series of planned Botox injections, Viksjo adds.

Despite drooping stock prices, some analysts say these companies have been beaten down so much that an improving economy should augment their shares.

Viksjo gives five-star ratings to Mentor and Medicis, meaning he believes their stocks are trading below their fundamental strengths. Allergan gets four stars on the five-star scale.

Mentor is the most dependent on products lacking insurance coverage. Roughly 89% of its revenue comes from breast implants, based on the fiscal quarter that ended June 27. Second-quarter results will be announced Nov. 5. "Mentor has a solid balance sheet, and it presents a very compelling case for investors willing to ride out the bumps," says Viksjo.

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