Covance Shares Slumped: What You Need to Know

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

What: Shares of drug development services company Covance (NYS: CVD) are hitting the deck today, down as much as 11% following its fourth-quarter earnings results.

So what: Things are definitely not right in Wonderland today, as Covance is warning that a combination of weakness in Europe, weakness in its Early Stage Development segment, and an increase in IT capital spending will impact its bottom line in 2012. For the fourth quarter, Covance reported a profit of $0.73 on revenue of $532.5 million compared to Wall Street's expectation of a profit of $0.73 on sales of $547.3 million, according to S&P Capital IQ. It's the 2012 guidance that really sunk the ship. Sales growth is only expected to be in the mid-single digits and EPS is anticipated to be in a range of $2.50 to $2.80. Sales were more or less in line, but the current EPS estimate for 2012 is $2.92.

Now what: Naturally, that wasn't the end of it. Goldman Sachs also downgraded Covance today to neutral from buy. Covance did what it could by authorizing the repurchase of $300 million worth of shares, but it's going to need a lot more damage control than that. The way I see it, Covance isn't paying you a dividend to own its shares, and its EPS estimates are rapidly falling due to weakened demand and higher costs -- that's a recipe that has "stay away" written all over it, and I'll gladly oblige.

Craving more input? Start by adding Covance to your free and personalized watchlist so you can keep track of the latest news on the company.

At the time thisarticle was published Fool contributor Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Goldman Sachs. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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