Just What The Doctor Ordered At Healthdyne?

The market is littered with the shares of wounded health care companies, some of which have fallen as much as 80% this year. Among the few that have escaped with relatively minor injuries is Healthdyne, a major provider of home medical-care services. The stock tripled to about 30 a share since being mentioned in this space a couple of years ago, but the sell-off in the health group pulled it down from its January high to 18 3/4. Yet several big investors recently have been buying in.

The reason: They believe that management is apt to make a move soon that will kick the stock up. In 1989, the company sold 33% of its Home Nutritional Services unit, currently trading at around 19 a share. Now the betting is that Chairman and CEO Parker Petit will take public Healthdyne's two other units--the perinatal services division, which provides obstetrical home-care services for high-risk pregnancies, and the technologies unit, which makes equipment for monitoring and treating sleep and respiratory disorders.

One big investor says Petit is waiting for the "right time" this year to offer the public 25% to 35% of these two highly profitable divisions. The move would produce a market value for them. Taking them public would also be a defensive move against a possible takeover. The value of Healthdyne's pieces, says the investor, is much higher than what the stock is selling for, which makes the company very attractive to companies hunting for acquisitions in the medical field.

BEST GAINER. Analyst Jane Gilday of Tucker Anthony agrees. She estimates that Healthdyne's 67% stake in Home Nutritional Services is worth $9 a share in Healthdyne stock. And the perinatal division, Healthdyne's best gainer, with operating profits zooming by 464% in the first quarter, is worth $16, while the technologies division is worth $6 a share. In sum, the parts have a combined value of $31 a share, she figures. Gilday's target for the stock over the next 12 to 18 months is 35 to 40.

Petit, who owns 15% of the stock, says he's always looking for ways to boost shareholder value. But he won't comment about the possible public offering. Healthdyne is now taking advantage of opportunities in Europe, where demand for the company's kinds of services is growing, Petit says. The foreign market now accounts for just 10% of sales, and Healthdyne has formed a joint venture with a company in the Netherlands. Petit says analysts' estimates of $1.20 a share for this year and $1.80 next year don't include the growth he sees in Europe.

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