September 10, 2009 / 11:22 AM / 9 years ago

UPDATE 2-MDS posts loss, blames isotope shortage

*Adjusted share loss $0.15 vs consensus loss $0.04

*Revenue down 21 pct at $192 mln

*Shares down 38 pct in past year (Adds background and analyst comments. In U.S. dollars)

By Scott Anderson

TORONTO, Sept 10 (Reuters) - Health sciences company MDS Inc MDS.TO MDZ.N reported a quarterly loss on Thursday, hurt by the lingering effects of a nuclear isotope shortage and as customers deferred research and development projects.

MDS, which plans to narrow its focus to nuclear imaging, said it lost $62 million, or 51 cents a share, in the third quarter, compared with a loss of $10 million, or 8 cents a share, for the same period last year.

On an adjusted basis, which excludes items such as restructuring charges and impairment of goodwill, the Canadian company lost 15 cents a share, down from a profit of 7 cents a year earlier.

Revenue dropped 21 percent to $192 million.

Analysts had expected, on average, a loss of 4 cents a share before special items, and revenue of $192.1 million, according to Reuters Estimates.

The company, which provided a preliminary outlook last week, blamed the economic downturn, softening in demand for medical instruments and a shortage of isotopes.

Last week, the company said it had struck a deal to sell its Analytical Technologies division and will seek buyers for its Pharma division so that it can concentrate on nuclear imaging.

Maher Yaghi, an analyst at Desjardins Securities, in Montreal, said investors will remain neutral on the company until it is able to provide a clearer picture on the isotope supply situation.

Nordion, the nuclear imaging division of MDS, faces a shortage of isotopes after Canada’s Chalk River nuclear reactor, which supplies a third of the world’s medical isotopes, was shut down in May after a small leak of heavy water was found.

The reactor’s operator, government-owned Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd, said the National Research Universal (NRU) reactor will not be operational until early 2010, leaving Nordion to scramble for alternatives.

“Investors need to get a sense in what’s going to happen with the resumption of isotopes from the NRU or how the company over the long term will supply itself with isotopes before getting into aggressively buying the stock,” Yaghi said.

The company’s shares, which have tumbled 38 percent in the past year on its weak performance and uncertainty over the isotope situation, last traded at C$8.77 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Wednesday.

$1=$1.08 Canadian Reporting by Scott Anderson, editing by Dave Zimmerman

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