Hansen Medical Inc. (HNSN) manufactures catheter based medical robots. It is effectively still a startup company, since it typically loses money each quarter. When it has shown a profit is has been from licensing its technology, not from robot sales. However, this is a well-understood business model. Research and development has to be done upfront. The FDA and other national medical agencies must approve each application of the technology. At the moment one application, electrophysiological exploration, is approved both in the U.S. and Europe. Two other applications have been approved in Europe, but have not yet produced revenue.
The difficulty of guessing the future value of this technology is why (along with overall market volatility) the stock price of Hansen has been all over the map this year. The fifty-two week high was $5.28, the fifty-two week low was $1.24, and the stock was up $0.15 today to close at $2.37. If Hansen continues to burn through its cash, $1.24 might be generous. If it starts selling significantly more surgical robots at a good profit margin, $5.28 will seem like nothing two or three years out.
I expected Hansen to trade higher after the new peripheral vascular surgical system, Magellan, was approved in Europe back in Q3. I expected it would take time to ramp up sales since these robots are big ticket items. The November 2, 2011 analyst call about Q3 results, however, tempered my short term hopes. The first working Magellan had been installed in St. Mary's Hospital in London, but Hansen wanted to take things slowly. One might hope their salespeople would have ten or more sales lined up for Q4, but instead they wanted to do a number of actual surgeries at St. Mary's and study the results.
Based on earlier trials they expect good results, but more data would not only help to drive sales. Experience is something that can be shared. Getting the surgeon's experiences at St. Mary's should help future surgeons and the Hansen employees who train them. That means better outcomes for patients and a better argument for the value of robotic vascular surgery.
Investors, of course, want their results this quarter, not sometime in the vague future.
If Hansen continues to move cautiously it may be a couple of quarters into 2012 before we see significant sales of the new Magellan system. Also Hansen, after an earlier accounting practices muck-up, now only recognizes revenue when doctors are trained and successfully operating a system. So the ramp will probably be in deferred revenue before it hits the actual revenue line.
Nor are the current Sensei robots for electrophysiology likely to come to the rescue. Only two systems were shipped in Q3, although revenue was recognized on five systems. Hansen lost $10.1 million in the quarter on revenue of $5.4 million.
Management seems confident that the new Magellan system will turn the company around. Hansen ended the quarter with $26 million in cash and just $3.6 million in debt. Answering an analyst question about running out of cash, management said they would get another $3 million from their licensing agreement with Philips. That should get Hansen through Q2, the commercial launch in Europe, and FDA approval for Magellan in the U.S. They are considering strategic financing similar to the Philips financing as well as debt or equity financing. They said they were confident of their ability to raise capital. A few days later they raised $10 million selling stock to existing investors.
Market capitalization ended today at $130 million. While that sounds high for a company with a $22 million annual revenue run rate and a history of losses, I know I am not the only person who thinks the future value of this technology is much higher. Earlier this year Philips paid $29 million for non-exclusive rights to use one of Hansen's technologies.
Start up costs for surgical robotics are high, but we are reaching a point when Magellan sales should start pointing us in the right direction. Buying in now has its risks, but so does waiting until later in 2012 when buying in is likely to be much more costly. The price can be very volatile because this tends to be traded in large blocks by aggressive traders.
I have owned Hansen Medical stock since July of 2009, after starting posting Hansen analyst call summaries in February of 2009.
Disclaimer: I am long HNSN. I will not trade in the stock for 1 week following this post.