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) posted lower-than-expected third-quarter earnings per share of 17 cents. Merrill Lynch downgraded the shares to neutral from buy.
Analyst Gregory Gilbert says the downgrade is mostly due to lower-than-expected sales, gross margin, and third-quarter earnings per share. He notes Ivax's $439 million in sales vs. his $463 million estimate, its 42.3% gross margin vs. his 45.5% estimate, and its 17 cents EPS vs. his 21 cents estimate. He was surprised by magnitude of the miss for each. Gilbert says it is unlikely his new estimates will be robust enough to justify a buy rating. He notes while he was aware of some additional competition pressures in Ivax's U.S. business, he underestimated the magnitude they would have on near term results. He still believes Ivax has an attractive pipeline that can create significant value over the long term.