For someone whose communication skills
have been questioned,
( BMET) founder Dane Miller has managed to send a rather clear-cut message to the market.
Last week, just days after he abruptly resigned as CEO, Miller cut his stake in Biomet. In all, Miller sold 500,000 shares of Biomet stock in accounts that he directly or indirectly controls. He collected $18 million from those transactions.
To be fair, Miller still holds 5.63 million Biomet shares in his accounts. But some people wonder why he would sell any stock at all if he shares Wall Street's hope for a takeover of the medical-device company he led for nearly three decades.
Miller's sudden departure on Monday fueled an immediate rally in Biomet's shares last week as investors, tired of the stock's underperformance, welcomed the prospect of change. However, at least one expert signaled that investors could be setting themselves up for a major disappointment down the road.
"While investors bid the stock up yesterday, given speculation that the likelihood for take-out has increased, we do not recommend purchase simply to chase a potential deal," Baird analyst Suey Wong cautioned. "Similar take-out speculation has arisen numerous times over the years with BMET to no avail."
Baird has a neutral rating and a $38 price target on Biomet's stock. The firm plans to seek investment banking business from Biomet over the next three months.
The company's stock slipped 52 cents to close at $35.52 on Friday.
Meanwhile, some Biomet followers simply hope for a better CEO.
With Miller at its helm, they note, Biomet focused more on engineering -- and less on sales and marketing -- than competitors like
. Going forward, they believe, Biomet could now shift its focus and become more successful as a result.
In an unusual move, however, Biomet has for now chosen an inside lawyer to run the show. Daniel Hann, a 17-year Biomet veteran who most recently served as general counsel of the company, last week took over as interim CEO.
SG Cowen analyst Dhulsini de Zoysa has expressed some discomfort with that arrangement.
"Where's the talent hiding?" de Zoysa asked in a research note on Tuesday. "Biomet may have that talent in-house, but we certainly have little evidence of that. Dane Miller has been the face of Biomet for as long as we can remember."
Notably, de Zoysa pointed out, Biomet passed over its CFO and two operating chiefs when searching for an interim leader. Looking ahead, de Zoysa said, Biomet needs to find a "Street-savvy CEO" in the end.
She continues to maintain her neutral rating on Biomet's stock in the meantime.
Biomet itself seems to be making a long-term investment in its interim CEO.
Three days before announcing Miller's retirement, a recent regulatory filing shows, Biomet granted Hann 200,000 stock options -- up from 25,000 options the previous fiscal year. Following that award, Hann now has options to purchase roughly 250,000 shares of Biomet stock in total.
Notably, Hann has assumed control over Biomet in the midst of a sweeping probe of the orthopedics implant industry. Government officials have subpoenaed several industry leaders -- including Biomet -- in an effort to determine whether the companies have been improperly rewarding surgeons for using their products.
The companies themselves have denied any wrongdoing while promising to cooperate with authorities. But in the meantime, some insiders say, the investigation continues to heat up.
News Channel 8, a local television program in Tampa Bay, Fla., offered some insight into that probe during a special consumer investigation earlier this year.
"There are physicians who have been put on contract who do nothing for the companies," Tampa Bay orthopedic surgeon Michael Wasylik told the local news station in February. "The large companies have been subpoenaed. Distributors are being subpoenaed. And also, physicians have been subpoenaed."
Analysts list that probe as a major risk factor for the entire orthopedics group.