NeoGenomics Deal With GE's Clarient 6 Months Later: Boom or Bust?

It has been six months since NeoGenomics (NEO) closed its acquisition of cancer testing company Clarient from General Electric's health care unit, making it a good time to reflect on whether this major deal was positive or negative.

Announced in October and closed in December, the Clarient acquisition came at a price of close to $250 million, including $80 million in cash -- much of which was borrowed from a new line of credit -- and the rest split between common and preferred shares given to GE.

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All told, NeoGenomics more than doubled its revenue, added significant new lab capacity in Southern California and gained a large new shareholder in GE, which fully diluted could hold as much as 32% of the combined company. The $8 share price for NeoGenomics is significant as well, representing the minimum price needed by GE to convert its preferred shares in the future.

NeoGenomics' first-quarter results included Clarient.

Revenue came in at $59.7 million, up 159% from a year earlier, thanks to internal growth of 36% to $8.2 million and $5.1 million in new bio-pharmaceutical and research revenue from Clarient. Despite continued pressure from lower per test reimbursement, NeoGenomics' bottom-line results improved, including positive adjusted earnings of 3 cents a share, up from break-even earnings a year earlier and cash flow from operations that rose to $6.8 million, from a negative $0.8 million.

Company guidance for full-year 2016 is for between $242 million and $252 million in revenue and 8 cents to 13 cents in adjusted earnings per share. 

NeoGenomics grew from one small esoteric clinical laboratory in Fort Myers, Fla., to its current multi-location size primarily through internal growth, fueled by research and development innovations in the diagnostic-service and product areas.

Last year, for example, NeoGenomics launched 70 new or revised diagnostic assays, up from 60 in 2014, including many new offerings from its NeoLab liquid biopsy and Germline molecular diagnostic product lines. On the table for this year is the launch of the NeoLAB prostate cancer test, expected by the end of the year.

With 2014's purchase of Path Logic and the acquisition of Clarient, NeoGenomics has clearly put itself in the role of acquirer, especially in the clinical-lab business.

Meanwhile, while NeoGenomics is going down the more traditional path of consolidating clinical labs, its two larger competitors, LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics are branching out, through purchases such as contract research organizations (Covance by LabCorp) and hospital lab outreach businesses (by Quest).

In fact, the most recent clinical lab acquisition of relevance came from outside the sector, with specialty pharmaceutical/diagnostic tests provider Opko Health's buyout of Bio-Reference Laboratories last year for a little less than $1 billion in stock or about 1.2 times annual revenue at the time. Although that valuation is considerably less than NeoGenomics' price-sales ratio of 2.5 times, which is based on 2016 estimated revenue, it shows that there may be more than the two most obvious buyers of clinical-lab companies, even in the $1 billion-plus price range, a number that would represent a nice potential return for shareholders of about 60%.

On the flip side, NeoGenomics may decide to remain independent and keep on its recent acquisition path, though most likely not with another large Clarient-size purchase until next year as it completes this integration. Alternatively, the company could branch out as other major labs have done recently, for example into the high-growth precision oncology area.

Overall, look for more good news on the R&D front this year and next and steady progress in the acquisition integration area, as NeoGenomics' shares seek to break through their previous high of $9 and head into double-digit territory.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.

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