(By Kevin Donovan) We recommended purchasing Cerner Corp.(CERN) shares back in May (see here) and remain long-term holders following the company's release of third-quarter results. Shares in the hospital information technology company are up about 12% in trading today on news of a 26% jump in earnings per share on record revenue and a robust pipeline.
Our price target is $92, based on applying the trailing 12 months' price-to-earnings multiple of 33 to the average estimate for 2013 EPS. The current forward PE is about 25. The stock price has fluctuated between $55.69 and $88.32 in the past 52 weeks and is up 11.79% year to date
Zane M. Burke, executive vice president of client organization, said in a conference call with investors that "our pipeline for additional new footprints is very strong," as stages two and three of the government's "meaningful use" criteria for information technology implementation raise the bar for healthcare providers.
"We believe Cerner is the only company with the comprehensive and scalable platform that will position our clients for success, as the industry transitions from a fee-for-service model, revolving around treating people when they get sick, to a pro-active model that keeps people well. We believe our primary competitors' narrow focus on simply being an EHR (electronic health records) product company will become a problem for both them and their clients, as they realize their antiquated platform will not be sufficient in the evolving health care landscape," he said.
Accrodong to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Meaningful use is ... the use of certified electronic health records (EHR) technology in a meaningful manner (for example electronic prescribing); ensuring that the certified EHR technology is connected in a manner that provides for the electronic exchange of health information to improve the quality of care; and that in using certified EHR technology the provider must submit to the Secretary of Health & Human Services (HHS) information on quality of care and other measures."
This built-in growth engine cited in our springtime piece on Cerner and recent results reinforce our investment thesis, as does Cerner's foray into offering cloud services for physicians.
By meeting the "meaningful use" standard, hospitals and clinics can claim incentive payments from $44,000 over five years for the Medicare providers and $63,750 over six years for Medicaid providers. Though participation is voluntary, those who fail to adopt compliant EHR technology by 2015 will see negative adjustments made to Medicare and Medicaid fees starting at 1% and escalating to 3% by 2017 and beyond.
The third quarter showcased the growth inherent in this business. Bookings in the third quarter of 2012 were $769.9 million, up 18% from the third quarter of 2011. Third quarter revenue was a record $676.5 million compared with $571.6 million in the year-ago period.
On a GAAP basis, third quarter 2012 net earnings were $98.9 million and diluted earnings per share were $0.56, compared with $78.8 million and $0.45 in 3Q 2011. Adjusted EPS were $0.60 versus $0.48 in the year-ago period.
Meanwhile, the company reported a backlog of $6.79 billion, up 20% from 2011, and free cash flow of $104.8 million, significant, we think, given ongoing capital expenditures related to the company's Kansas City headquarters.