There are a lot of new faces at Natrol Inc. in recent weeks, starting at the top with CEO Wayne Bos. When he joined in February, the company touted his record as a leader in growth companies, having worked at companies in industries such as technology, telecommunications, finance, chemicals and media firms. Executive chairman and founder Elliot Balbert said that he hoped Bos would help lead the nutritional products company toward growth, boost international sales and look for acquisition targets. A few weeks after Bos came on board, the company announced its annual results, a net loss of $2.6 million, or $0.20 per share on sales of $67.5 million. Bos said that sales of the company’s Carb Intercept dropped $9.2 million after the low-carbohydrate diet peaked in 2004 and started to sharply decline thereafter. More announcements came shortly after the earnings report. The company is bringing Eric P. Schick on board as vice president of marketing. He’ll be responsible for selling the company’s key brands Natrol, Laci Le Beau and Prolab. This won’t be Schick’s first time marketing the type of products that Natrol sells. He worked as the chief sales officer for IdeaSphere, which makes Twinlab vitamins, teas and other supplements. He also worked for Leiner Health Products, Anabolic Laboratories and was president and CEO of Niche Products Inc, which offered private label, over-the-counter vitamins and other supplements to retailers. The same day, the company announced it had hired CCG Investor Relations and Strategic Communications to manage the company’s investor relations program. The company will be charged with making Natrol look good in front of investors and the financial media. Bos has plenty of reason to turn around the company, as part of his hiring he was granted over six million fully-vested stock options. His ability to sell them will be restricted over the next three years; the restrictions are based on the company’s stock price meeting certain marks. Insurers Power Grows The most recent headlines about monopoly concerns have centered around the computer software industry, in which Microsoft has run into trouble domestically and overseas. Recent studies show that health insurers wield quite a bit of power as well, sparking a debate about the impact of mergers on the cost of health insurance. A study completed by the American Medical Association yields information for 294 metropolitan areas, and found that in over half of them, a single insurer issues more than half of the health insurance policies. Using a Justice Department measuring system, the AMA found that 95 percent of markets are highly concentrated, which should mark possible anti-trust concerns. San Fernando Valley companies have been involved in their fair share of health insurance mergers. Health Net recently completed its acquisition of Universal Care, and 2004 saw what was then Thousand Oaks-based WellPoint merge with Anthem of Indianapolis. The fact that insurers’ profits have been steadily rising in recent years, the organization said, means that if entry into markets was easy, plenty of companies would be looking to duplicate that success. However, the opposite has occurred,” the AMA said. “In the past five years there has been minimal new entry into health insurance markets. The fact that large health insurers like WellPoint and United are acquiring existing health insurers in markets, as opposed to developing their own networks and products, is further evidence of substantial barriers to entry.” Health premiums jumped in double-digit hikes from 2001 to 2004, barely missing that mark with a 9.2 percent increase last year, but insurers say that the problem lies with the ever-increasing cost of medical care, and that insurance companies spend the same percentage of their budget on medical expense just about every year. Vitesse Inquiry Vitesse Semiconductor placed three of it executives on administrative leave so that the company could look into the timing and accounting of some stock options transactions. The company’s share prices fell by almost 25 percent after the announcement, trading at $2.48. The executives named were CEO Louis Tomasetta, CFO Yatin Mody and Executive Vice President Eugene Hovanec. The company also said that an investigation, which will involve outside attorneys, could mean that the company needs to restate some of its past results. Vitesse is scheduled to report its second-quarter results this week, and analysts were expecting the company to report a loss of about $0.03 per share on $58 million in revenue. Guitar Center Expands The Westlake Village retailer is going to spend $45 million to construct a 702,000-square-foot fulfillment center in Kansas City. The project will result in 140 new jobs, adding to the approximately 380 people the company employs at a 250,000-square-foot facility. The new building would be capable of expanding to about one million square feet. Guitar Center is applying for tax abatement benefits through Missouri’s enterprise zone programs. The company is starting construction this month and hopes to complete the building by next January. MannKind Results MannKind Corp. reported on Wednesday that it has shown positive results in a mid-stage clinical trial of its Technosphere Insulin System that allows diabetes patients to inhale insulin instead of injecting it. The study, the company said, seemed to show that patients under both treatments improved. There are over 21 million people with diabetes in the country. Pfizer Inc. was the first company to get approval for an inhaled insulin product, and MannKind would like to be the next. The market for inhaled insulin could potentially reach into the billions of dollars.
Personnel Changes at Natrol Amid Disappointing Earnings