3D Systems Clears Lowered Bar, Investors Bet on More Growth

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3D Systems Corp. (NYSE: DDD) reported fourth-quarter and full-year 2013 results before markets opened Friday. For the quarter, the 3D printer maker reported adjusted diluted earnings per share (EPS) of $0.19 and $154.8 million in revenues. In the same period a year ago, 3D Systems reported EPS of $0.26 on revenue of $101.57 million. Fourth-quarter results also compare to the Thomson Reuters consensus estimates for EPS of $0.19 and $154.91 million in revenue. The consensus EPS estimate was cut from $0.20 in the last week.

For the full year, 3D Systems posted EPS of $0.85 on revenues of $513.4 million, compared with EPS of $0.83 on revenues of $353.63 million in 2012. The consensus estimates called for EPS of $0.85 on revenues of $513.5 million.

At the end of the third quarter, 3D Systems raised its full-year revenue guidance from a prior range of $485 million to $510 million to a new range of $500 million to $530 million and lowered its EPS guidance from a range of $1.05 to $1.20 to a new range of $0.93 to $1.03. 3D Systems lowered its full-year EPS estimate again on February 5 to a range of $0.83 to $0.87. The company’s CEO explained the shortfall in earnings this way:

Compared to our late quarter expectations, we are disappointed that our stronger order book didn’t convert to higher revenue, but instead, resulted in a near doubling of last quarter’s backlog. Despite our higher growth, certain revenue categories fell short of our expectations and the concentration of new product announcements deferred sales and suppressed expected gross profit margin for the quarter.

The company more than doubled its quarterly spending on R&D from $7.8 million last year to $16.6 million, and also “continued to rapidly increase” spending on infrastructure and talent expenditures in support of its growth initiatives and recently announced joint developments and alliances. The CEO explained:

Maintaining our historical performance doesn’t require this level of increased expenditures, but planning to double our revenue over the next couple of years does. Although, in October, we guided for reduced earnings to reflect these actions, our late-quarter expenditures ramp surpassed our expectations.

On February 5, 3D Systems guided 2014 EPS in a range of $0.73 to $0.85 on revenues of $680 million to $720 million. Shares dropped below $65, but have recovered $10 likely due to investors’ hopes for higher revenues based on new product introductions. We will see how that plays out over the next several quarters.

Competitor Stratasys Ltd. (NASDAQ: SSYS) is scheduled to report earnings on Monday, and consensus estimates call for fourth-quarter EPS of $0.49 on revenues of $151.03 million. For the full year, the company is expected to post EPS of $1.83 on revenues of $481.31 million. Stratasys’s MakerBot and 3D Systems’ Cubify consumer-oriented 3D printers are competing hard for primacy in the consumer space.

The ExOne Company (NASDAQ: XONE), another player in the 3D printing space, is scheduled to release results on March 19. Analysts are forecasting EPS of $0.01 on revenues of $12.13 million for the quarter and an EPS loss of $0.25 on revenues of $40.94 million for the full year.

Shares of 3D Systems are up nearly 6% in premarket trading Friday morning, at $78.88 in a 52-week range of $27.88 to $97.28. Thomson Reuters had a consensus analyst price target of around $81.00 before the results were announced.