Monday, December 05, 2005

SFBC International, Inc.

This is a very interesting opportunity--momentum wise, contrarian-wise, and value-wise. Here's the story:

The stock went through a triple whammy over the past month, and dropped from around $40 bucks to $18.75 today.

Wammy #1: Hurricane Wilma affected some of their clinical trials for a couple of days, but management explicitly states that it has only a minor impact on their net income and finances.

Wammy #2: A scathing article alleging that the company has horrible testing facilities and environment, and treat human test subjects like dogs and doesn't have any respect what-so-ever. A second article came out after that one alleging that the CEO himself went to patients and forced them to sign dismissals of these allegations which were brought forth by journalists--cursing them out and threatening deportation (most test subjects are immigrants). Management took about a month to host conference calls and agreed to many regulatory probes with full confidence that none of the things in the articles were true and that the entire story was fabricated.

Wammy #3: On Thursday, there was an issue with the company's compliance with building regulations and they are forced to shut down about half of their facility down which took the stock down as well. On Friday, company came out saying that that would not affect their business at all, in that they weren't even operating that particular facility at full capacity and that they will have no future problems meeting capacity even if those beds were shut down.

I personally love these situations where the sale of stock is based on non-valuation metrics. This company is now trading at an EV/EBITDA multiple of 8X, and comparable companies are trading at 12 - 13X. SFBC has solid growth potentials and sustainable revenue (management explicitly stated that they are not expected to lose clients or test subjects as a result of the article because they have had a reputation for regulatory compliance and humane treatment of patients for 25-years and this is the first time anything like this has ever happened).

Thus, I believe that the company should at least be trading at the industry average of around 12X. 4th quarter earnings doesn't show any signs of slowing down. Management maintains their earnings guidance for the 4th quarter on Nov 3, saying GAAP EPS would be $1.66 to $1.72 and excluding non-cash amortization of intangibles and one time charges it would be $1.96 to $2.02.

I think we might have a pretty good investment on our hands.

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