Zimmer Holdings Hammered

Zimmer Holdings (ZMH) were under pressure Thursday after the company late Wednesday reported strong earnings but offered new sales guidance that failed to pass current analyst expectations.

Zimmer said 2004 revenue would come in between $2.94 billion and $2.965 billion, up $15 million from its earlier guidance, but slightly less than the current analyst estimate of $2.968 billion. Adjusted earnings are expected to range between $2.26 and $2.30 a share for fiscal 2004, up 6 cents from its previous guidance and higher than current consensus of $2.25 a share.

Shares plunged $8.95, or 12%, to $64.80 early Thursday.

Otherwise, the company Wednesday announced second-quarter net earnings of $116.3 million, or 47 cents a share, up 80% from $89 million, or 45 cents a share, in the year-ago quarter. On an adjusted basis, which is how Wall Street views the company, Zimmer earned 58 cents a share, topping the 55-cent estimate and the company's earlier guidance.

On a reported basis, second-quarter net sales came in at $737 million, beating the $733.1 million Wall Street estimate, up 79% from the $411.1 million it saw a year ago, driven by Zimmer's acquisitions of Centerpulse and Implex. The company announced that sales in its reconstructive and knees product categories rose more than 50% year-over-year.

On Wednesday, Zimmer shares lost $2.80, or 3.7%, to $73.75, sideswiped by a selloff in the sector sparked by J.P. Morgan analyst Michael Weinstein's downgrade of rival Wright Medical Group ( WMGI) to neutral, saying that shares were overvalued. With Stryker ( SYK), another orthopedics-related company, announcing weaker sales of hip replacements in the second quarter, investors are growing skittish of the once-hot sector.

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