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Natera Q4 Revenues Rise 6 Percent as Number of Accessioned Tests Balloons 56 Percent

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Natera reported today that its fourth quarter revenues rose 6 percent year over year thanks to a 56 percent increase in the number of accessioned tests.

For the three months ended Dec. 31, 2015, the company reported revenues of $52.9 million compared to $49.9 million in Q4 2014. The company beat analysts' consensus estimate of $45.3 million for the quarter.

The company accessioned more than 92,000 tests during the quarter compared to 59,000 tests accessioned in Q4 2014. The total number includes 73,000 Panorama trisomy screening tests and nearly 16,000 Horizon carrier screening tests compared to 50,000 and 6,300, respectively, in Q4 2014.

"We believe that the substantial growth in volumes is a testament to both our leading technology and commercial execution," CEO Matt Rabinowitz said in a statement accompanying the results.

Natera reported a net loss in Q4 of $23.0 million, or $.47 per share, compared to net income of $1.3 million a year ago, which was all distributed to preferred shareholders, the company said. The firm went public in July 2015.

The Q4 2015 loss per share beat analysts' consensus estimate for a net loss of $.64 per share.

Natera reported that its SG&A and R&D expenses rose 68 percent to $38.4 million from $22.8 million a year ago, mostly due to increases in research and development activities and additional sales staff.

On a conference call with Wall Street analysts, Rabinowitz and CFO Herm Rosenman discussed the company's direct sales strategy in the US. Volume and revenue data show that the direct sales force is a competitive advantage for Natera, Rabinowitz said. Rosenman added that Q4 revenue due to direct sales was 79 percent, and 77 percent in 2015.

Steve Chapman, the senior vice president of operations, added that the company has been able to drive the volume of sales of NIPT tests for average risk thanks to the direct sales model. Data from the fourth-quarter has identified several opportunities to optimize the model, he added, and there will be some short-term impacts to unit growth from the changes, but Natera feels confident in its ability to drive strong volume growth in the medium and long terms.

For full-year 2015, Natera reported that total revenues rose 20 percent to $190.4 million from $159.3 million in 2014, beating the consensus Wall Street estimate of $183.0 million.

The firm said the number of accessioned tests rose 44 percent to more than 310,000 tests in 2015, including 254,000 Panorama tests and 42,000 Horizon tests, increases of 37 percent and 158 percent, respectively, over 2014.

The firm's net loss for the year widened to $70.3 million, or $2.68 per share, from $5.2 million, or $1.07 per share, the year before. Analysts, on average, had expected a net loss of $2.32 per share for the year.

The company's R&D expenses rose 60 percent to $27.7 million from $17.3 million in the year-ago period, and its SG&A expenses rose 74 percent to $109.6 million from $62.9 million in 2014.

Natera ended the year with cash and cash equivalents of $28.9 million, and short-term investments of $201.6 million.

For 2016, the company said it expects total revenues of $190 million to $220 million. Analysts, on average, have predicted revenues of $222.5 million in 2016.

During the call, Rabinowitz said the company is in a strong competitive position in the prenatal health market, and that it is signing contracts with an increasing number of payors to confer coverage for Natera's tests on a larger number of patients. The firm recently signed an agreement to become part of Aetna's lab network and signed a similar deal with Cigna, Rabinowitz noted. Natera is also in talks with other insurance plans to get coverage for its tests.

Only a third of payors in the US have so far updated their coverage policies to include NIPT testing for women at average risk, Chapman added, but conversations with payors have shown that an increasing number of them will continue to update their policies throughout 2016 and into 2017.

Further, Rabinowitz noted, the American Medical Association has reviewed the data on the benefits of NIPT testing for women at average risk, and has granted a CPT code for fetal chromosomal microdeletions in circulating DNA in maternal blood. This means that doctors can now order the tests and bill for them through participating payors, and further validates microdeletion testing for pregnant women, he added. The new code is set to go into effect in early 2017.

In Wednesday morning trade on the Nasdaq, shares of Natera were down around 11 percent at $8.45.

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