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Finally Out with the Old at PharmaNet?

Friday, November 2, 2007

Some equity analysts remained on edge about PharmaNet Development Group’s recent personnel changes during its third quarter conference call on Nov. 1. But should they be?

Some wondered if it was a case of the remaining higher ups from the former SFBC finally leaving or was if there were more to it and another shoe was going to drop. Late last week, PharmaNet Chairman Jack Levine and Director David Lucking resigned from the board.  And Chief Accounting Officer David Natan and the company agreed to a mutual separation, the company said.

The resignations were announced on Thursday, Oct. 22 and Jefferies & Company analyst David Windley followed up with a downgrade of PharmaNet to “Hold” from “Buy,” citing unexpected risk from the surprise announcement. In the conference call, analysts pressed PharmaNet president Jeffrey McMullen for more, but he was about as forthcoming as he could be given the nature of the personnel moves. The three who left were part of the old regime, the former SFBC.

After the downgrade, on Monday, Oct. 26, shares of PharmaNet fell $1.82, or 5.3%, to close at $32.42.

But shares were back up big time Thursday, jumping 13% to $35.95 after PharmaNet beat analysts’ expectations with earnings of $10 million, or 52 cents a share, more than double last year’s 20 cents a share, excluding items. The company also raised 2007 guidance to between $1.22 and $1.29 a share from the prior $1.12 to $1.24 a share.

For the quarter, overall revenue rose 20% to $124.4 million with direct revenue at nearly $100 million. The company also boosted 2007 guidance for direct revenue to $361 million to $365 million compared with its previous forecast of $342 million to $352 million.

It’s been a good year for PharmaNet and its investors with the stock up more than 60%, and with the old SFBC finally behind it, 2008 looks promising.

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