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Esoteric, Gene-based Testing Helps Quest's Q1 Revenues Rise 6 Percent

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Quest Diagnostics today reported that its first-quarter revenues grew more than 6 percent year over year as esoteric and gene-based testing grew 20 percent.

For the three months ended March 31, revenues totaled $1.94 billion, surpassing consensus Wall Street expectations of $1.88 billion. Clinical testing revenues rose 6 percent year over year, the company said, as revenue per requisition increased about 3 percent and volume, measured by the number of requisitions, increased 3 percent.

Quest estimated that weather benefitted year-over-year revenue and volume comparison by about 2 percent, and added that the acquisitions of Athena, Celera, and SED contributed 3 percent to total revenue growth and the same to clinical testing revenue growth.

On a conference call following the earnings release, Chairman and CEO Surya Mohapatra said that demand for esoteric and gene-based testing continues to outpace routine testing, which he said also saw improved growth year over year, and noted volume for the SureSwab molecular test for bacterial vaginosis and vaginitis grew more than 50 percent year over year during the quarter.

For the quarter, SG&A spending rose 12 percent to $500.6 million from $447.9 million a year ago.

Quest's net income during the first quarter was $159.1 million, or $.99 per share, compared to a net loss of $53.9 million, or $.33 per share, a year ago. Adjusted EPS was $1.07, beating Wall Street estimates of $1.01.

In July, Quest announced a three-year, $500 million cost reduction initiative aimed at improving operational efficiency, and today Mohapatra said the firm is making "good progress" on the effort.

Mohapatra is leaving the firm at the end of the month, the company announced last week, to be succeeded by Steve Rusckowski. Additionally, Daniel Stanzione is taking over as non-executive chairman of the board, effective May. 1.

Quest ended the first quarter with $145.4 million in cash and cash equivalents.

For full-year 2012, the company is guiding for revenue growth of between 2 percent and 2.5 percent, and increased estimated EPS to between $4.45 and $4.60 from a previous guidance of between $.4.40 and $4.55.

In January, the board authorized $1 billion in additional share repurchases. During the first quarter, Quest repurchased $50 million of its shares, it said.

In early morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange, shares of Quest were down a fraction of 1 percent at $60.12