Patterson Cos. reported Thursday that fiscal first-quarter sales were down 1 percent and earnings were flat from last year but added that rising sales of consumable products to dentist and veterinarians were indicators of near-term improvements.
The company raised its fiscal 2014 earnings guidance range to $2.13 to $2.24 per share from $2.10 to $2.20.
"We are encouraged by economic indicators in North America that generally bode well for our business," said CEO Scott Anderson.
The Mendota Heights-based distributor of dental, veterinary and medical supplies reported sales of $889.2 million for the three months ended July 27, down 1 percent from the same quarter last year. Net income dropped slightly to $45.9 million from $47.5 million.
Per-share profit was unchanged at 45 cents, below analysts' forecast of 48 cents. Patterson stock closed down $1, or 2.4 percent, to $40.65.
"While we knew the first quarter would be challenging, results were in line with our expectations," Anderson said.
Patterson is encouraged by the 3.3 percent increase in sales of consumable products in its dental division and a 4 percent increase of consumable products in its veterinary division.
Still overall sales in the dental division decreased 2.3 percent to $554.2 million. In the year-ago quarter, dental sales were aided by a trade-up program for a product called CEREC, a system that lets dentists make digital impressions and allows for other 3-D digital imaging.
With that promotion creating a difficult comparison environment, Patterson said sales of dental equipment declined 11.7 percent in the latest quarter.