Why Air Methods Corp. Stock Soared 17%

By Markets Fool.com


There's a medical emergency at Air Methods, but time will heal these wounds. Image source: Getty Images.

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What happened

Helicopter medevac company Air Methods (NASDAQ: AIRM) stock is soaring this morning after reporting Q3 earnings that, to be perfectly honest, didn't even come close to meeting expectations. Expected to report $1.08 per share in Q3 profits, Air Methods instead delivered just $0.82. Instead of delivering more than $317 million in revenues, the company again fell short, with just $311 million reported.

Regardless, the stock ran up more than 17% in early Friday trading, and as of 11:30 a.m. EDT, was still showing a gain of 14.9%.

So what

As my fellow Fool Keith Speights reported last night, Air Methods saw no gain in sales since Q3 of 2015, and its profits were actually down 29% year over year as well. In a bad news that is actually pretty good news development, CEO Aaron Todd noted that "patient transports" by medevac "were below expectations in the quarter." It's hard to call fewer people encountering near-death experiences a bad thing, but that dearth of critically injured patients did hurt Air Methods' profits.

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Worse news for investors, management revised its "2016 outlook" to account for the "softness in air medical volumes," warning that "EBITDA in the mid-$300 million range in 2016 is no longer achievable."

Now what

All of this would seem to add up to a great reason for investors to sell Air Methods stock today. Instead, investors are buying Air Methods stock hand over fist. Does this make sense?

With earnings now likely to come in around $104 million (based on a fourth-quarter estimate of the run rate over the past three quarters), but Air Methods stock only costing $1.1 billion (resulting in a price-to-earnings ratio of 10.5), it actually kind of does. After all, the sad fact is that eventually, people are going to start getting hurt again and needing medevac services, and eventually, Air Methods earnings are going to start growing again because of that. Indeed, analysts who follow the stock anticipate long-term earnings growth rates in excess of 18% for the stock, and 10.5 times earnings doesn't seem like a lot to pay for such a growth rate.

For a stock as cheap as Air Methods has become, even bad news could turn into good news if you're patient.

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Fool contributorRich Smithdoes not own shares of, nor is he short, any company named above. You can find him onMotley Fool CAPS, publicly pontificating under the handleTMFDitty, where he currently ranks No. 333 out of more than 75,000 rated members.

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