COVID-related sales drop at Johnson & Johnson Vision

The company says a coronavirus vaccine could be ready in early 2021.

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  • | 5:10 a.m. April 23, 2020
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Demand for contact lenses should not diminish much in a pandemic. 

While some lens wearers may opt for their eyeglasses since they’re not leaving the house anyway, many people will continue to order new supplies of contacts.

Johnson & Johnson grew sales of its Acuvue contact lenses made in Jacksonville during the first quarter.

However, the expansion of the global medical products giant into other eye health products caused overall sales to drop at Jacksonville-based Johnson & Johnson Vision Care Inc. 

Johnson & Johnson last week said contact lens sales in the U.S. rose 7.7% in the first quarter, but global sales of eye surgical products plunged by 16.9%.

As a result, total vision products sales fell 5.5% to $1.067 billion in the quarter.

The company said the COVID-19 pandemic is sharply reducing demand for eye surgical products, such as its cataract-related products.

Johnson & Johnson reported adjusted earnings of $2.30 for the quarter, up from $2.10 in the first quarter of 2019 and well above the consensus estimate of $2.03 of analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research.

However, the company expects the pandemic to lower earnings for the rest of the year. After previously forecasting earnings of $8.95 to $9.10 a share, it now projects $7.50 to $7.90.

Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson reported optimistic news on its efforts to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, which it said could be ready early in 2021.

Johnson & Johnson’s stock rose $6.26 to $146.03 on April 14 after its earnings report.

Stein Mart is considering plans to lift stock price

After Stein Mart Inc. was forced last week to terminate its buyout agreement with a private equity firm, its stock not surprisingly dropped to a new low April 17.

The Jacksonville-based fashion retailer said April 20 it is evaluating options to lift its stock price to meet Nasdaq minimum price requirements. 

The options could include a reverse stock split, which would reduce the number of shares outstanding and increase the price of the remaining shares.

Stein Mart’s stock has traded below $1 for most of the past year. An affiliate of Kingswood Capital Management L.P. agreed in January to acquire the company for 90 cents a share. 

After the market collapsed in February, sending Stein Mart’s stock even lower, the two sides agreed last week to terminate the buyout agreement.

Stein Mart’s stock fell as much as 12 cents to 23 cents April 17 after the announcement.

The company had been under a July 6 deadline to raise its price above $1 to meet Nasdaq listing requirements, but Nasdaq last week announced it is providing temporary relief from the price requirements for all companies because of turmoil in the stock market.

Stein Mart said it now has until Sept. 18 to regain compliance with Nasdaq rules.

Coach keeping its distribution centers open

Like Stein Mart and other retailers, handbag and accessories company Coach has had to close its stores during the pandemic.

Parent company Tapestry Inc., which also owns the Kate Spade and Stuart Weitzman brands, said April 20 it is taking several cost-cutting measures, including laying off 2,100 part-time workers at its North American stores.

It will furlough more employees May 30 if stores haven’t reopened by then. 

However, Tapestry is committed to keeping its distribution centers open, including its facility at Jacksonville International Tradeport that handles all Coach distribution in North America.

The company has not reduced its workforce of 340 at the Jacksonville facility, Tapestry spokeswoman Andrea Shaw Resnick said by email.

The distribution center has implemented safety precautions including social distancing and enhanced cleaning procedures, she said.

Duos Technologies Group gets first analyst coverage

Duos Technologies Group Inc. raised its profile in February by getting its stock listed on the Nasdaq Capital Market.

Now the company has its first analyst coverage.

Benchmark Co. analyst Michael Legg initiated coverage of Duos Technologies last week with a “speculative buy” rating.

Jacksonville-based Duos provides intelligent security analytical technology, with a focus on railroad industry applications.

“We believe the Company’s cutting-edge railcar inspection technology and associated Artificial Intelligence interface will revolutionize the railcar inspection process, effectively eliminating manual car inspections providing significant cost savings to class 1 railways,” Legg said in his report.

“We believe Duos is uniquely positioned with its Railway Inspection Portal system to capture the lion’s share of outsourced inspections,” he said.

Duos reported revenue of $13.64 million in 2019. The company has been projecting revenue of $20 million this year, but has said the pandemic could affect that.

Legg projects revenue of $17.6 million this year, and forecasts it to grow to $36 million by 2022.

UBS analyst boosts FIS to ‘buy’

Fidelity National Information Services Inc.’s stock fell 13% in the first quarter, a relatively modest drop considering the overall poor performance of the market.

UBS analyst Eric Wasserstrom sees potential for the company known as FIS to recoup those losses. He upgraded the stock from “neutral” to “buy” last week.

“Our upgrade of FIS represents our view of the relative durability of its revenues given its orientation to processing and the mix of exposures within its merchant acquiring unit, and the upside potential to our $146 price target,” Wasserstrom said in his research note.

The Jacksonville-based financial technology company was trading at $123.60 at the time of Wasserstrom’s report.

Analyst: Maxwell House sale ‘sensible’ 

The upheaval in the markets makes a sale unlikely soon, but one analyst said last week that Kraft Heinz Corp. should consider a sale of its Maxwell House coffee business as it restructures the company.

“Aside from exiting some small brands, we think the platforms most sensible to exit are coffee and Oscar Mayer,” Wells Fargo analyst John Baumgartner said in a research report.

The company’s Downtown Jacksonville plant, which employs about 200 people, is Maxwell House’s lone remaining U.S. plant. The company has not publicly discussed it but speculation about a sale of the business has persisted for more than a year.

“It is hard for us to envision where coffee slots into the go-forward model for KHC. It’s clearly not a ‘powerhouse’ business nor would it likely fall into the ‘protect’ bucket given share declines,” Baumgartner said.

“While profit margins and free cash conversion may be above corporate averages, commodity volatility is significant and we sense that management would rather commit cash to businesses with better growth than have it tied up in coffee working capital,” he said.

Baumgartner upgraded his rating on Kraft Heinz from “equal weight” to “overweight.”

“Over the past five years, market sentiment around KHC has swung from euphoria to despair and now, we think investors can benefit from extreme negativity,” he said.

ParkerVision reports loss

ParkerVision Inc. last week reported a 2019 loss of $9.45 million, or 30 cents a share.

Revenue was just $74,000 as the Jacksonville-based company shut down marketing of its one product, an in-home Wi-Fi system called Milo.

ParkerVision’s sole focus now is pursuing several patent infringement claims against major telecommunications manufacturers, alleging they have been illegally using wireless technology developed by the company.

The company’s annual report said it had 10 full-time and two part-time employees at the end of 2019.