Home 5 Articles 5 Q3 Creates the Perfect Storm of Sustained COVID-19 Tailwinds and Diminishing Headwinds

Q3 Creates the Perfect Storm of Sustained COVID-19 Tailwinds and Diminishing Headwinds

by | Dec 2, 2020

July through September 2020 was a remarkable quarter for most diagnostics firms. In fact, it was the closest thing to a perfect storm for earnings. Pandemic tailwinds drove massive revenues for firms that had made the pivot into COVID-19 testing; meanwhile, the momentary lull in case rates allowed for firms that were buffeted by declines […]

July through September 2020 was a remarkable quarter for most diagnostics firms. In fact, it was the closest thing to a perfect storm for earnings. Pandemic tailwinds drove massive revenues for firms that had made the pivot into COVID-19 testing; meanwhile, the momentary lull in case rates allowed for firms that were buffeted by declines in baseline testing in Q2 and the end of Q1 to get back to almost pre-pandemic levels. The bad news for the latter group is that the surge in COVID-19 cases will make that formula totally unsustainable in Q4.

Almost All Firms Experience Positive Growth

Before the pandemic began, DX earnings were on a long-term upward trajectory with gainers outnumbering decliners at a rough rate of 3 to 1. COVID-19 came too late in Q1 to make a dent in earnings. But things came home to roost in Q2 2020, with decliners leading gainers 29 to 12, including testing giants Abbott, Agilent, Becton Dickinson, LabCorp, Quest, Roche, and Siemens Healthineers.

But the Q3 turnaround is even more dramatic, with 36 of 41 firms posting growth, including almost all of the companies that experienced losses in the previous quarter. Bruker, Illumina, Myriad Genetics, Oxford Immunotec, and Siemens Healthineers finished the quarter with declines.

Gains Are Greater than Expected

Growth was not only almost universal but way higher than expected, with only two firms failing to meet their Wall Street targets—NeoGenomics and Pacific Biosciences. Most firms not only exceeded but annihilated their earnings targets for the quarter. Notable examples:

Companies Significantly Exceeding Third Quarter Wall Street Revenues Targets

CompanyQ3 Wall Street TargetQ3 Actual Revenues
Abbott$8.51 billion$8.85 billion
Bio-Rad Laboratories$570.6 million$647.3 million
Danaher$5.51 billion$5.88 billion
Exact Sciences$337.4 million$408.4 million
Fulgent Genetics$48.5 million$101.7 million
LabCorp$3.63 billion$3.90 billion
Perkin Elmer$841.2 million$964.0 million
Thermo Fisher$8.52 billion$7.65 billion

Nor were the gaudy gains confined to the top line. Firms with eye-popping earnings per share for the quarter included:

  • Bio-Rad Laboratories: Adjusted EPS of $3.00 vs. $1.80 Wall Street target;
  • Fulgent Genetics: $2.88 vs. $0.55;
  • Hologic: $2.07 vs. $1.22;
  • LabCorp: $8.41 vs. $5.25;
  • PerkinElmer: $2.09 vs. $1.50;
  • Qiagen: $5.78 vs. $4.75;
  • Quest: $4.31 vs. $3.73; and
  • Thermo Fisher: $5.63 vs. $4.31.

LIR Takeaway

Criticism of diagnostics companies reaping massive earnings from the pandemic are incredibly misplaced and overlook the herculean efforts firms have made to meet unprecedented demands for COVID-19 testing. In the early days of the public health emergency, these firms had the foresight to recognize the opportunity and develop innovative tests for coronavirus. These innovators included not only firms in immunoassays and molecular testing, but genomics testing firms like Exact Sciences, Fluidigm Genetics and Quidel. For other firms like Natera, the formula has been to remain in their core non-COVID-19 space but adapt their businesses to remote ordering and other logistical challenges posed by the pandemic. Regrettably, the COVID-19 headwinds will be back in Q4 to wreak destruction on the revenues of companies relying on baseline, routine and hospitalization-associated testing, while serving as significant tailwinds to COVID-19 testing firms.

Diagnostics Earning Reports for Q3 (period ended September 30, 2020)
(At least $10 million in sales)

COMPANYFY 2020 Q3DX Segment Performance
Total Revenue
(vs. Wall Street)
YOY RevenuesEPS
Wall Street)
Abbott Laboratories $8.85 billion ($8.51 billion)+10% ( +11% organic)Adjusted +$0.98 (+$0.90)DX up 38% to $2.64 billion, even though core DX flat at $1.18 billion, driven by massive demand for COVID tests, including 313% increase in molecular to $458 million and 83% increase in rapid diagnostics to $875 million; point of care drops 10% to $131 million
Adaptive Biotech $26.3 million ($23.6 million)1%Net -$.27 ( -$.28)Sequencing down 3% to $11.3 million even though test volume for ClonoSeq increased 58% with 4,023 tests delivered; developmental revenues up 5% to $15.0 million
Agilent Technologies (FY 4Q) $1.48 billion ($1.40 billion)8%Adjusted +$0.98 (+$0.93)Diagnostics and Genomic Group up 9% to $294 million, Life Sciences and Applied Markets up 8% to $671 million; CrossLab group up 11% to $518 million
Becton Dickinson (FY Q4) $4.78 billion ($4.48 billion)4%Adjusted +$2.79 (+$2.52)Growth driven by COVID -19 testing, including newly launched Veritor assay and Veritor and BD Max platforms; COVID testing generates $440 million; routine testing rebounds from Q3 but remained below pre -pandemic levels
Berkeley Lights $18.2 million ($15.3 million)16% -$0.16 ( -$0.20)Product revenue up 7% to $14.1 million, driven by $12.4 million in direct platform and instruments sales
BioMérieux $934.2 million +21% ( +27% organic)Clinical applications up 27% to $818.47 million, with over 100% growth in molecular and immunoassays more than offsetting 9% decline in microbiology
Bio -Rad Laboratories $647.3 million ($570.6 million)15%Adjusted +$3.00 (+$1.80)Life Sciences up 50% to $324 million driven by PCR and Droplet Digital PCR products in response to COVID -19, which also drove Clinical DX down 6% to $322.2 million
Bio -Techne (2021 FY Q1) $204.2 million ($185.0 million)11%Adjusted +$1.43 (+$1.09)DX & Genomics up 18% to $50.1 million driven by RNAscope RNA in situ and hybridization products; Protein Sciences up 10% to $154.4 million due to reopening of biopharma and academic sites after COVID shutdowns
Bruker $511.4 million ($483.7 million)-2%Adjusted +$0.35 (+$0.31)CALID group up 8% to $171.3 million, including $8.5 million in molecular SARS -CoV -2 testing, 6% increase in BioSpin to $152.1 million, which offset 13% decline in Bruker Nano to $147.1 million and 17% decline in BEST to $43.8 million
CareDx $53.4 million ($53.0 million)58% +$0.10 ( -$0.06)Testing services up 61% to $45.5 million driven by 65% increase in AlloSure and AlloMap sales; Products sales up 29% to $5.4 million; Digital and other revenues up 79% to $2.5 million
Castle Biosciences $15.2 million $15.0 million3% -$0.23 ( -$0.11)Decision Dx -Melanoma test reports up 7% to 4,404 due to COVID respite
Danaher $5.88 billion ($5.51 billion)35%Adjusted +$1.72 (+$1.36)DX up 18% to $1.89 billion, driven by demand for Beckman Coulter and Cepheid COVID testing, with Cepheid experiencing over 100% core growth after shipping 7 million tests, which is expected to rise to 8 million in Q4; Life Sciences up 72% to $2.92 billion, including newly acquired Cytiva
Exact Sciences  $408.4 million ($337.4 million)87% -$1.462% decline in screening revenues to $214.6 million, including Cologuard, more than offset by $91.6 million in precision oncology revenues from newly acquired Paradigm Diagnostics and $102.2 million in COVID testing, nearly tripling $34.6 million in COVID tests in Q2
Fluidigm $39.9 million ($32.5 million)50%Adjusted +$0.07 ( -$0.20)Pivot to COVID testing enables microfluidics and cytometric testing firm to hold pandemic losses to mass cytometry to less than Q2 levels (down 3% to $15.5 million) and massively grow microfluidics products by 88% to $20.2 million with nearly 800,000 COVID tests and sales of 30 Biomark HD instruments
*Fulgent Genetics $101.7 million ($48.5 million)1000%Adjusted +$2.88 (+$0.55)Adaptation of genetic testing platform for COVID testing drives massive year -over -year increase in billable tests from 20,697 to 1.04 million
GenMark Diagnostics*  $42.6 million ($39.3 million)104%Net -$0.05 ( -$0.06)Pandemic drives 187% increase in ePlex revenues to $38 million with 70 new analyzer systems placed during quarter, raising global total 47% to 720
Guardant Health $74.6 million ($65.9 million)23%Net -$0.78 ( -$0.38)Revenues return to nearly pre -pandemic levels with oncology up 16% to $60.4 million; development services up 65% to $14.2 million driven by new companion Dx products for biopharma
Hologic (FY Q4) $1.35 billion ($1.12 billion)56%Adjusted +$2.07 (+$1.22)Total DX up over 300% to $939 million driven by over 500% growth in molecular diagnostics to $818.9 million due to demand for COVID tests on Panther and Panther Fusion instruments; decline in non -COVID tests, including 48% in blood screening to $8.7 million, and 6% decline in cytology and perinatal revenues to $111.4 million
Illumina $794 million ($715.9 million) +$1.02 (+$0.77)Sequencing consumables down 5% to $500 million, offset by 3% growth in mid -throughput systems, with $109 million in total sequencing systems; Sequencing services 28% to $99 million; Microarray down 16% to $88 million
Invitae $68.7 million ($59.7 million)22%Non GAAP -$0.62 ( -$0.66)Test revenues up 21% to $67.3 million with test volumes bouncing back due to easing of COVID conditions; Samples acquisitioned up 32% to 170,000
LabCorp $3.90 billion ($3.63 billion) +33% ( +32% organic)Adjusted +$8.41 (+$5.25)Diagnostics up 54% to $2.70 billion driven by 54% increase in COVID testing (vs Q2) and recovery in baseline testing, which was down only 2% year over year; PAMA price cuts responsible for 1% decline
Luminex $106.1 million ($105.0 million)35%Net -$0.04 ( -$0.20)Assays up 89% to $55.6 million driven by COVID molecular testing, which offset declines in clinical tools and life sciences; cytometry down but to a lesser extent than in Q2
Meridian Bioscience (FY Q4) $64.2 million ($59.6 million)26%Adjusted +$0.19 (+$0.14)Molecular reagents, including COVID, up over 400% to $22.7 million, which offsets overall 11% in DX revenues to $29.8 million, including 23% decline in molecular tests to $6.1 million, and 8% decline in non -molecular assays to $25.2 million; immunological reagents down 1% to $11.6 million
Myriad Genetics (FY 2021, Q1) $145.2 million ($135.2 million)Adjusted -$0.15 ( -$0.30)Testing volumes recover to 90% of pre -pandemic levels by end of Sept. but still down across all segments due to COVID -19, with molecular DX down 21% to $135.7 million, including 23% drop in hereditary cancer ($80.6 million), 48% decline in GeneSight ($11.9 million), 17% decline in Vectra ($9.1 million), 2% drop in Prolaris ($6.4 million);
NanoString Technologies $31.8 million ($28.7 million)4%Net -$0.56 ( -$0.60)Product + service pro forma revenues up 22% due to acquisition of Prosigna breast cancer test; consumables down 11% to $13.7 million; Instruments up 60% to $12.9 million, including $7.5 million from newly launched GeoMx system and $5.4 million from nCounter
Natera* $98.1 million ($87.2 million)26%Net -$0.72 ( -$0.69)Third outstanding quarter in a row, with 39% increase in products to $93.3 million; 31% more tests processed at 200,200; lab has minimized disruption to core reproductive health business, including Panorama and Horizon assays, thanks to improvements to remote ordering capabilities
NeoGenomics $125.4 million ($126.2 million)20%Adjusted +$0.06 (+$0.04)Core oncology testing bounces back with overall test volume up 2% to 255,458 tests performed, requisitions up 2% to 147,518, but revenue per test down 3% to $359
Opko Health $428.1 million ($376.4 million)87%Pro forma +$0.04 (+$0.05)111% increase in services revenues to $382.5 million, due to COVID testing with BioReference Lab processing over 3.5 million PCR and 300,000 antibody tests, which more than offsets drops in genomic and clinical testing; product revenues up 10% to $28.7 million
OraSure Technologies $48.0 million ($41.7 million)33%Net +$0.01 ( -$0.07)Products and services up 32% to $46.7 million, driven by 79% growth in molecular solutions to $31.7 million and $18.4 million in sales for molecular SARS -CoV -2 sample collection devices, which more than offset 38% decline in genomics to $8.5 million and infectious disease testing products, including 3% decline in microbiome to $1.8 million
Oxford Immunotec $19.4 million ($18.7 million)Net -$0.01 ( -$0.05)Tuberculosis and other testing volumes recover but remain at below pre -pandemic levels in all geographic regions
Pacific Biosciences $19.1 million ($20.4 million)Net -$0.14 ( -$0.13)Products down 15% to $15.7 million, Services down 3% to $3.3 million, as pandemic aggravates pre -existing problems
PerkinElmer $964.0 million ($841.2 million)36% +$2.09 (+$1.50)Follows Q2 recovery with massive Q3, driven by 93% growth in DX to $540.4 million, with COVID PCR tests and RNA extraction solutions each contributing over $100 million—although serology testing for COVID was below Q2 levels; Applied genomics up 360%; “modest declines” in reproductive health
Qiagen* $483.8 million ($462.8 million)26%Adjusted +$5.78 (+$4.75)23% growth in consumables to $420 million driven by unprecedent demand for COVID testing cartridges, including 29% increase in molecular diagnostics to $237 million, as well as spikes in sales of reagents + RNA extraction kits; Instruments up 57% to $67 million; QuantiFerron -TB tests fall 20% to $53 million
Quanterix $31.4 million ($14.9 million)111%Not reportedOne -time recognition of $11.2 million license payment from Abbott drives revenues increase and belies more modest 9% growth in Products to $11.7 million; Services up 56% to $6.6 million; Company expects 2H rebound to continue into Q4
*Quest Diagnostics $2.79 billion ($2.73 billion)43%Adjusted +$4.31 (+$3.73)Test volume down 5% but partly offset by expanded COVID testing capacity with 9.9 million molecular + 1.5 million serology tests performed, enabling Quest to return $138 million in CARES Act payments received
Quidel $476.1 million ($450.4 million)276%Adjusted +$5.78 (+$4.75)Molecular DX up from $4.7 million to $63 million, including $57.8 million in Lyra SARS -CoV -2 test revenues; Rapid immunoassays up from $42.5 million to $337 million, including $317.9 million from Sofia SARS Antigen test; Cardio immunoassays fall 3% to $64.8 million due to decline in hospital visits; Specialized DX down 10% to $11.2 million
Roche Diagnostics $4.23 billion (DX revenues)18%Not reportedMolecular DX up 67% to $2.86 billion, offsetting declines of 1% in tissue DX ($882.67 million) and 10% decline in diabetes care ($1.40 billion)
Siemens Healthineers (FY Q4) $1.25 billion (DX revenues)Adjusted +$0.58Modest gains in COVID reagent products not nearly enough to offset huge losses in routine testing
10x Genomics $71.8 million ($61.2 million)17%Net -$0.65 ( -$0.30)Rebounds from Q2 declines. 22% increase in consumables to $60.6 million; Instruments down 7% to $9.7 million despite higher average prices for Chromium Connect platform sales; Service up 46% to $1.6 million
Thermo Fisher $8.52 billion ($7.65 billion)36%Adjusted +$5.63 (+$4.31)23% of total revenues ($2.0 billion) come from COVID and continued recovery of baseline testing fuels another massive quarter; Life Sciences up 101% to $3.42 billion; Specialty DX up 63% to $1.43 million driven by COVID testing; Lab products + services up 19% (16% organic) to $3.11 billion driven by pharma services and research + safety, including PPE sales
Veracyte $31.1 million ($23.9 million)FlatNet -$0.08 ( -$0.21)Genomic testing volumes up 3%, including increase of 6% for Affirma and 37% decline in Percepta
Waters $593.8 million ($546.5 million)3%Non – GAAP +$2.16 (+$1.93)Pharma up 5%, Industrial up 5%, Academic and government sales down 8%
Bold face: Companies that met or exceeded average or consensus Q3 Wall Street revenue estimates
Italics: Companies that missed average or consensus Q3 Wall Street revenue estimates
* Companies that raised their revenue or EPS guidance during Q3

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