Medical laboratory operator Quest Diagnostics Inc. said Monday its profit grew 7 percent in the fourth quarter due to greater use of genetic and specialized tests.
However, the company said it ran fewer tests compared to the fourth quarter of 2008 due to high levels of unemployment, which is reducing demand for drug tests by employers.
Quest said its profit rose to $181.6 million, or 97 cents per share, from $169.8 million, or 87 cents per share. A charge of 4 cents per share to retire debt early was offset by a tax benefit of 4 cents per share.
Revenue increased 3 percent to $1.85 billion from $1.8 billion.
According to a Thomson Reuters survey, analysts were expecting a profit of 96 cents per share and $1.87 billion in revenue.
Quest reported greater use of tests for genetic conditions and "esoteric" tests, which require specialized personnel and are run when a physician suspects a patient has a specific condition. Overall, clinical testing volume fell 0.3 percent, but clinical testing revenue rose around 2 percent, and revenue per requisition grew about 3 percent. If orders for employee drug screening are excluded, Quest said testing volume grew 0.5 percent.
For 2009, Quest said its profit grew 25 percent to $729.1 million, or $3.87 per share, from $581.5 million, or $2.96 per share. Revenue increased 3 percent to $7.46 billion from $7.25 billion.
Looking ahead, the company forecast a profit of $4.10 to $4.30 per share for 2010. Wall Street is looking for $4.20 per share, on average, with estimates ranging between $3.80 and $4.33.
The company also added $750 million to its stock buyback plan. Quest said it spent about $500 million in 2009 to buy back 10 million shares. It had 183 million shares on the market at year-end.
Shares of Quest fell $1.86, or 3.2 percent, to $56.94 in morning trading. The stock has traded in a 52-week range of $42.36 to $62.83.
© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.