Word that federal officials are investigating some of HCA Holdings' business practices won't linger over the stock price of Nashville's largest company for long, say two local analysts.
Both Kevin Campbell at Avondale Partners and Art Henderson at Jefferies have told clients in the past day that inquiries by the U.S. Attorney's office in Miami and New York Times reporters about unnecessary heart procedures will be a short-term drag on HCA's stock price. They both have lowered their price targets — Campbell to $33 from $35 and Henderson to $30 from $34 — but reiterated their outperform/buy ratings, saying investors will soon shift their focus to the company's better-than-expected second-quarter results.
"The fundamentals for HCA remain solid, and we remain buyers of the stock," Campbell wrote.
Similarly, Henderson said the strong Q2 numbers will rise above the din and that the dark clouds over HCA shares should soon pass — albeit while adding that HCA's peers could soon run into similar headline risks.
"Expect anxieties to run high this week, but we think they will abate shortly, sooner rather than later," he wrote. "The Obama Administration remains focused on eliminating 'waste, fraud and abuse,' so this could be a motivating factor behind this inquiry and could lead to inquiries of other publicly-traded hospitals."
Tuesday's market action suggested the this-too-shall-pass approach already has taken hold. Helped by a strong earnings report from Tenet Healthcare, HCA shares (Ticker: HCA) rebounded almost 5 percent on normal volume, more than erasing Monday's losses.
Henderson said investors also stand to be rewarded for sticking with HCA in another way. The company could declare late this year another special dividend that could total $1 billion and beat a potential New Year's tax hike to the punch.
The Times, meanwhile, published its (first?) piece on the incidence of unneeded cardiac procedures at some of HCA's Florida hospitals. The piece details how an internal investigation substantiated one nurse's claims that some procedures were unnecessary but that officials did nothing to address the practice and also did not renew the nurse's contract.