NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Shares of health care information company Athenahealth ( ATHN) are continuing a recent surge to 52-week high levels, and bucking the negative market sentiment on Wednesday.On Tuesday, Athenahealth -- already the most highly valued company in the health care information sector by a wide margin -- hit a 52-week high after surging 6%, and saw a large spike in trading, twice its average daily volume. While there was no news on Tuesday to support the 52-week high in Athenahealth shares, on Wednesday the company announced a deal with Summit Medical Group, a network of 230 providers, for its cloud-based health care revenue cycle management system. Athenahealth shares were up another 4% on Wednesday to near the $49 mark -- shares hit an intraday 52-week high of $49.30 during Wednesday trading. The big knock against Athenahealth -- other than its lack of brand awareness relative to the more established, and software-based, players in the health care IT market, such as Cerner ( CERN) and Allscripts Healthcare Solutions ( MDRX) -- has been its lack of big wins at the level of enterprise deals, or deals roughly defined as including between 150 to 500 providers.
Gene Mannheimer, analyst at Auriga Securities, said that the Summit Medical deal is a good-sized deal for Athenahealth, but even taking it into account it doesn't justify the 10% move up in Athenahealth shares over the past two trading sessions. Criticism of Athenahealth has been about their inability to close enterprise deals since they lined up early adopters like Cook Children's Health Care System. The first few years they knocked out a number of enterprise deals, but the early adopter phase hit a plateau, explained the Auriga analyst. As such, the analyst says that the Summit Medical Group deal is a necessity, as opposed to icing on the highly valued Athenahealth cake. "The enterprise pipeline has been building, but I would argue that Athenahealth has to sign deals like this to hit the numbers the street is looking for this year, and I don't see it as upside," Mannheimer said. Athenahealth trades at a multiple double the group multiple in health care information. Athenahealth is the only cloud-computing-based player in the health care information space, leading to its heady multiple. From this perspective, the Auriga analysts says one can make the case that Athenahealth is significantly undervalued, since companies like Salesforce.com trade at multiples in the triple digits. "There might be more room to run in Athenahealth shares based on the cloud-computer multiple argument, but I'm against that argument, and they still have a brand awareness issue, meaning growth won't come that easy for a company already significantly overvalued relative to its peer group," the Auriga analyst maintained. Other analysts remain undecided about the potential for enterprise level wins to send Athenahealth shares higher. One health care analyst not authorized to speak about Athenahealth based on the rumors in the market on Tuesday, told TheStreet before the news broke about the Summit Medical deal, "People are coming to the realization that Athena didn't win any enterprise deals at all last year and could have some in the sales pipeline. The problem though is that this stock could be worth $30 or $80. They are fighting against the odds in the enterprise space," the analyst said. "The key to this stock is increasing penetration of the enterprise-size practices. That's the difference between Athena growing at a high teens revenue growth rate and in the 30+ percent range. Since it is cloud-based, every incremental dollar flowing through the P&L has a tremendous EBITDA margin," the analyst explained. -- Written by Eric Rosenbaum from New York. >To contact the writer of this article, click here: Eric Rosenbaum. >To follow the writer on Twitter, go to Eric Rosenbaum. >To submit a news tip, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.