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Labs Are 'Relative Safe Havens' In Health Care Services, Morgan Stanley Says In Quest Diagnostics Upgrade

Labs Are 'Relative Safe Havens' In Health Care Services, Morgan Stanley Says In Quest Diagnostics Upgrade

Barely a month-and-a-half after upgrading Quest Diagnostics Inc (NYSE: DGX) to Equal-weight, Morgan Stanley turned incrementally positive on the shares.

The Analyst

Analyst Ricky Goldwasser upgraded shares of Quest Diagnostics from Equal-weight to Overweight and increased the price target from $103 to $120.

The Thesis

The long-term strategic partnership announced by UnitedHealth Group Inc (NYSE: UNH) with Quest Diagnostics and Laboratory Corp. of America Holdings (NYSE: LH) — and Aetna Inc (NYSE: AET)'s deal with LabCorp — have served to remove contract overhang, signaling a "more disciplined pricing environment" going forward, Goldwasser said in a Tuesday note. (See the analyst's track record here.) 

"… Labs are relative safe havens within the health care services sector," Goldwasser said. 

The removal of contract overhang increases Morgan Stanley's confidence in Quest's ability to deliver earnings growth at the high end of its 3-5 percent long-term goal.

The company remains poised to expand its market share from 1.5-3.5 percent to 15 percent as it becomes an in-network provider for UnitedHealth's members beginning Jan. 1, 2019, Goldwasser said. 

"We expect Quest will capitalize the opportunity over a two-to-three-year period, translating to [an] incremental 470bp of volume per year through 2021." 

Citing volume increase from the UnitedHealth contract that was partly offset by lower pricing and lost Aetna volume, Morgan Stanley increased its 2019 revenue and earnings per share estimates for Quest from $7.903 billion and $6.88 to $8.055 billion and $7.02, respectively.

The firm also raised its 2020 estimates, with EPS forecast to come in 6.5 percent higher than Quest's guidance.

The Price Action

Quest shares have gained about 7.4 percent year-to-date.

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Latest Ratings for DGX

Oct 2019MaintainsNeutral
Aug 2019MaintainsOverweight
Jul 2019MaintainsNeutral

View More Analyst Ratings for DGX
View the Latest Analyst Ratings

Posted-In: Morgan Stanley Ricky GoldwasserAnalyst Color Upgrades Health Care Price Target Analyst Ratings General Best of Benzinga


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