Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Taking a Gamble on Hooper Holmes

Several years ago, my wife and I decided to buy some life insurance. The insurance company sent a couple of paramedics over to our house to do a basic medical exam and take samples of blood and urine. These paramedics were employed by a company called Hooper Holmes (HH). Unfortunately, the company hasn't been doing so well. It has no profits and revenues are falling. The stock has been falling, too. It has fallen steadily for about seven years and currently sells for $2.65 per share.

Despite all these problems, I recently started accumulating shares of the company. New management took over more than a year ago and I'm betting the worst is over. The gross profit margin is already showing signs of recovery and there is hope that the revenue decline will moderate. Furthermore, the company has no debt outstanding.

This is not a growth story. HH is not operating in a particularly complicated industry. In fact, it's a rather boring business. It's the kind of stuff Warren Buffett might appreciate. There is nothing high tech about it. It should be relatively easy for this kind of company to make some money. Most importantly, HH needs to get expenses under control and bring them down to a level that is appropriate for the reduced amount of revenue it is now generating. At the same time, it needs to find ways to stem the revenue decline.

The company will probably announce second quarter results in about a week or so. I'm not expecting anything spectacular. If it can simply break even and show that revenues are holding steady, that will be enough to attract some buyers.