Natus Medical (BABY): BABY’s got you covered from head to toe

close up of baby feet in an adult hand

Natus Medical is a global leader in three important product areas: neurology, newborn care, and audiology.
In neurology, Natus manufactures products for neurodiagnostics and neurosurgery. The company’s products help to diagnose brain injuries, monitor intracranial pressure, and allow drainage to alleviate pressure on the brain. In newborn care, Natus makes products for hearing screening, brain injury treatment, and phototherapy for jaundice. In audiology, the company’s products are used in hearing screening, hearing aid fitting, diagnosis and treatment of balance issues, and hearing diagnostics.
The company was founded in 1987 and is headquartered in Pleasanton, California.
Natus has strong market positions, as its products are either #1 or #2 worldwide. The company has grown over the years through acquisitions and organic growth.
One recent acquisition was Otometrics, a Danish company which has a revolutionary new product, Otoscan, for fitting hearing aids. The traditional method for fitting a hearing aid has been to make a silicone wax imprint and send it to a manufacturer. This was a messy, inexact process that often led to repeated return trips for refitting. Otoscan, on the other hand, makes a digital image that can be uploaded immediately by the manufacturer. With an exact image, this novel digital process saves the manufacturer time and money with a precise fitting. This is like the breakthrough in the dental business, where a dentist can now make a digital image of a tooth and make a crown on the spot, rather than having to send out an (inexact) imprint for manufacture.
Similarly, Natus recently established a relationship with a company that makes a revolutionary neonatal MRI machine. These machines are located in or near hospital ICUs, which eliminates the need to transport critical neonatal patients. The machine is self-enclosed and does not need a shielded room.
These recent transactions seem to be a shrewd use of capital to improve the company’s competitive position and lead to higher profitability.
From a social perspective, several of the company’s products have highly impactful benefits to patients and can reduce health care costs. One of the company’s key product lines is aimed at early detection and treatment for jaundice in babies. Because jaundice is a leading cause of rehospitalization in newborns, the company’s products have the ability to reduce hospitalization rates and thus costs on the health care system by identifying and treating jaundice before it becomes a problem. Further, the company offers hearing testing tools for newborns. While 95% of newborns in the U.S. undergo hearing testing, the practice is not yet widespread outside the U.S. When hearing issues are identified early, they can often be addressed quickly and effectively to significantly improve patient outcomes. The company also has balance and mobility systems that can identify balance issues and retrain sensory and motor control systems. This can help keep patients active and prevent injuries from falls. While not all of the company’s products have such clear societal benefits, many of the company’s products offer great benefits to patients and have the potential to reduce health care costs.
The company reports on its charitable giving, and one third of its board is composed of women, but like many small companies, Natus has room for improvement in its disclosure of environmental and social policies and programs. This is an area we look forward to engaging on with the company.
In sum, Natus is a global leader in providing life-saving and life-enhancing health care products. Its stock price is depressed because of reduced near-term earnings guidance from merger integration challenges. The company has what we look for: socially useful products, good long-term prospects, financial strength, and a reasonable valuation.
Natus Medical (BABY)
Recent Price: $30.50
52-Week Price Range: $28.00-$43.60
Market Capitalization: $950 million
Dividend Yield: none