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Article Contributed By

Fisher catches wave of industry growth

Recent Price $59
Dividend none
Yield none
P/E Ratio 21
Shares (billions) 67
52-Week Price Range $59- $27

Fisher Scientific International, a Focus List Buy, qualifies as an attractive pick on several counts:

  • The company holds a leading position in life-science supplies, a market with solid long-term prospects and improving near-term demand.

  • December-quarter results showed encouraging strength. With healthy sales growth likely to continue, and profit margins widening, 15% to 20% growth in per-share earnings seems likely for 2004.

  • At 21 times expected 2004 earnings, the stock trades at a discount to its six-year valuation average.

Corporate profile
Offering more than 600,000 scientific products and services to more than 350,000 customers located in 145 countries, Fisher markets itself as a one-stop source for the research needs of the scientific and health-care fields. Customers include pharmaceutical and biotech companies, universities, hospitals, and research-and-development labs. With the bulk of sales coming from consumable items that constantly need to be replaced, the company has a steady revenue stream.

Last year, Fisher paid $810 million for Perbio Science, a Swedish company with $250 million in annual sales. Perbio makes consumable tools for protein research and drug production. The addition of Perbio should increase Fisher’s percentage of self-manufactured goods to about 25%, up from 20%. Self-manufactured goods provide higher profit margins. The company said it expects the Perbio acquisition to boost 2004 per-share earnings $0.10 to $0.15.

In October, the company refinanced $400 million of its substantial debt burden with the $261 million of proceeds from the sale of 6.6 million common shares and a private placement of its $150 million of senior subordinated notes. The refinancing strengthens the company’s balance sheet and gives the company more flexibility in funding future growth. Long-term debt still represents 71% of capital, but interest expenses are well-covered by earnings.

The long-term picture for the life-science market looks good. Increasing investment in research and development on drug discovery bodes well for sales, while concerns over homeland security have been driving demand for safety and decontamination products. Also, with Fisher supplying the scientists who develop new medical diagnostic tests as well as the labs where the testing occurs, the company stands to benefit from an aging population.

December-quarter sales rose 19% to $977 million, beating consensus expectations for $905 million. Excluding nonrecurring items, per-share earnings increased 28% to $0.59, beating the consensus estimate of $0.53. After charges related to the Perbio acquisition and debt refinancing, Fisher posted quarterly profits of $18.6 million, or $0.28 a share. For fiscal 2003 ended December, sales increased 10% to $3.56 billion and earnings rose 40% to $143 million, or $2.36 a share. After charges, the company reported earnings of $78.4 million, or $1.29 a share. For fiscal 2004, Fisher expects revenue growth of about 10% to 12%, operating profit margins of nearly 9%, earnings per share of $2.70 to $2.80, and operating cash flow of $220 million to $240 million. An annual report for Fisher Scientific International Inc. (NYSE: FSH) is available at One Liberty Lane, Hampton, NH 03842; (603) 926-5911.





      Price Range

P/E Ratio

Dec '03 $0.59 vs. $0.46 + 19% $42.80 -


19 - 17
Sep '03 0.68 vs. 0.52 + 7% 41.25 - 33.40 20 - 16
Jun '03 0.61 vs. 0.35 + 7% 37.10 - 24.55 20 - 14
Mar '03 0.48 vs. 0.34 + 8% 32.95 - 26.70 20 - 16



        Price Range

P/E Ratio

2003 $3.56     $2.36      none     $42.80 - $24.55 18 - 10
2002  3.24     1.67      none     33.43 - 22.85 20 - 14
2001 2.88     1.04      none     40.00 - 21.00 38 - 20
2000 2.62     0.95      none     51.00 - 19.87 54 - 21



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