Nat'l Dentex Cp (NADX) - Description of business

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Company Description
Our dental laboratories in all three of our reportable segments design and fabricate custom dental prosthetic appliances such as dentures, crowns and bridges. These products are produced by trained technicians working in dental laboratories in accordance with work orders and cases (consisting of impressions, models and occlusal registrations of a patient’s teeth) provided by the dentist. Dentists are the direct purchasers of our products. Our products are grouped into the following three main categories: Restorative Products.   Restorative products that our dental laboratories sell consist primarily of crowns and bridges. A crown replaces the part of a tooth that is visible, and is usually made of gold, porcelain or zirconia. A bridge is a restoration of one or more missing teeth that is permanently attached to the natural teeth or roots. In addition to the traditional crown, we also make porcelain jackets, which are crowns constructed entirely of porcelain; onlays, which are partial crowns which do not cover all of the visible tooth; and precision crowns, which are restorations designed to receive and connect a removable partial denture. We also make inlays, which are restorations made to fit a prepared tooth cavity and then cemented into place. Reconstructive Products.   Reconstructive products sold by our dental laboratories consist primarily of partial dentures and full dentures. Partial dentures are removable dental prostheses that replace missing teeth and associated structures. Full dentures are dental prostheses that substitute for the total loss of teeth and associated structures. We also sell precision attachments, which connect a crown and an artificial prosthesis, and implants, which are fixtures anchored securely in the bone of the mouth to which a crown, partial or full denture is secured by means of screws or clips. Cosmetic Products.   Cosmetic products sold by our dental laboratories consist primarily of porcelain veneers and ceramic crowns. Porcelain veneers are thin coverings of porcelain cemented to the front of a tooth to enhance personal appearance. Ceramic crowns are crowns made from ceramic materials that most closely replicate natural teeth. We also sell composite inlays and onlays, which replace silver fillings for a more natural appearance, and orthodontic appliances, which are products fabricated to move existing teeth to enhance function and appearance. Laboratory and Corporate Operations Our full-service dental laboratories design and manufacture a full range of custom-made dental prosthetic appliances. These custom products are manufactured from raw materials, such as high noble, noble and predominantly base alloys, zirconia, dental resins, composites and porcelain. There are different production processes for the various types of prosthetic appliances depending upon the product and the materials used in the type of appliance being manufactured, each of which requires different skills and levels of training. Our dental laboratories perform numerous quality control checks throughout the production cycle to improve the quality of our products and to better ensure that the design and appearance satisfy the needs of the dentist and the patient. Our branch dental laboratories are smaller in size and offer a limited number of products. When a branch receives an order that it cannot fill, the branch refers the order to one of our affiliated full-service dental laboratories. We operate each of our dental laboratories as a stand-alone facility under the direction of a local manager responsible for operation of the dental laboratory, supervision of its technical and sales staff and delivery of quality products and services. Each of our dental laboratories markets and sells its products through its own direct sales force, supported by group managers and company-wide marketing programs. Employees at each dental laboratory have a direct stake in the financial success of the dental laboratory through participation in our performance incentive plans. Our corporate management provides our overall strategy, direction and financial management and negotiates all acquisitions. Corporate personnel also support the operations of our dental laboratories by performing functions that are not directly related to the production and sale of dental laboratory products, such as processing payroll and related benefit programs, obtaining insurance and procuring financing. Our corporate management provides marketing, financial and administrative services, negotiates national purchasing arrangements, and sets quality and performance standards for our dental laboratories. Finally, our corporate management includes industry recognized technical experts who guide and direct our investments in new technology and materials. Sales and Marketing The majority of our local dental laboratories market and sell their products through their own direct sales force. The sales force interacts with dentists within its market area, primarily through visits to dentists’ offices, to introduce the dental laboratory’s services and products offered, and to promote new products and techniques that can assist dentists in expanding their practices. Our dentist-focused marketing and sales program, entitled the “NDX Reliance Program tm ” is specifically designed to make choosing a dental laboratory an easier decision for dentists. Its five components — Practice Support, Laboratory Systems, Quality Assurance, Reliance Restorations and a Continuing Education Series — differentiate our qualified laboratories from their many competitors. We believe that this unique approach to assist the dentist and his or her staff to improve chairtime efficiencies while providing exceptional service, superior quality and quick and timely product delivery will enhance our ability to expand our base of business by establishing lasting professional relationships with our customers. Our laboratories currently employ a total of 42 sales representatives. In addition, our dental laboratories, alone or with local dental societies, dental schools or study clubs, sponsor technical training clinics for dentists and their staffs on topics such as advanced clinical techniques. The local dental laboratories also exhibit at state and local dental conventions. Following our acquisition of Keller in 2006, we now also market more directly to the entire United States marketplace. Keller markets using a direct mail and trade advertising approach and focuses on products that can generate strong revenue growth. In addition, the exclusive product license on the NTI-tss plus tm device, a full-coverage bite guard that is also approved by the FDA for use in the prevention of medically diagnosed migraine pain and jaw disorders, will help us to further diversify our business growth strategy. Competition The dental laboratory industry is highly competitive and fragmented. A typical dental laboratory’s business originates from dentists located within 50 miles of the dental laboratory. We believe there are currently approximately 12,000 dental laboratories in the United States. We estimate that our sales presently represent less than 3% of the total sales of custom-made dental prosthetic appliances in the United States. Competition is primarily from other dental laboratories in the respective local market areas. The vast majority of dental laboratories consist of single business units, although we recognize that there are several other multiple-location operators, including the Sentage Corporation d/b/a Dental Services Group, Dental Technologies, Inc. and Americus Dental Labs, Inc., which was acquired by Dental Services Group. These groups compete with us in several market areas. We also face competition from various mail order dental laboratories, most notably Glidewell Laboratories. The domestic industry faces growing competition as a result of foreign manufacturing. Competition for business from the developing manufacturing capabilities of low wage countries such as China, India, and others intensified in 2006. In February 2006, Dentsply International, Inc. (“Dentsply”), one of the largest suppliers of raw materials to us and the worldwide dental laboratory industry, announced its intention to manufacture partial frames and traditional crowns in China for sale to United States based dental laboratories at prices reflecting significantly lower labor costs. In addition, the number of smaller competitors that seek to take advantage of these low wage economies and compete primarily using price as the main differentiator has grown. We continue to evaluate such competitive threats as well as our own growth opportunities arising from globalization and changing marketplaces to ensure we continue to provide the products and services required by our clients. Most dentists use a limited number of dental laboratories. We believe they prefer and tend to rely on those laboratories which produce quality products delivered on a timely basis and which carry all of the products which they may need, even if a particular item is a newer specialty product used only sporadically by the dentist. While price is one of the competitive factors in the dental laboratory industry, we believe that most dentists consider product quality and consistency, service, and breadth of product line to also be important factors in selecting dental laboratories. We believe that we compete favorably with respect to all of these factors. Our ability to produce quality products locally, to deliver such products on a timely basis, to provide convenience for the dentist through the breadth of our product line, to provide technical assistance, and our sponsorship of educational clinics, all provide us with what we consider to be a competitive advantage over other dental laboratories in the local markets in which our dental laboratories operate. Our ability to provide newer specialty products for implantology, adult orthodontics and cosmetic dentistry, which require highly skilled technicians, more extensive inventories, additional working capital, and investment in both training and capital equipment, also distinguishes us from the many other dental laboratories which do not have comparable resources to provide these products. While such specialty products presently represent less than 20% of our business, we believe that the ability to offer these products will become increasingly essential for dental laboratories to remain competitive. Employees As of December 31, 2006, we had 2,156 employees, 2,107 of whom worked at individual laboratories. Corporate management and administrative staff totaled 49 people. None of our employees are covered by a collective bargaining agreement. Management considers our employee relations to be good. Intellectual Property Our general technological know-how, experience and workforce are important to the conduct of our business. Each of our dental laboratories operates under its own trade name, and we consider these trade names to be materially important to the conduct of our business. Also important is the development and maintenance of customer relationships. We expect that our continued focus on ensuring our clients get a consistent product that is delivered on time and meets or exceeds their quality expectations, will continue to assist us in generating and maintaining customer relationships and the goodwill of our dental laboratories. Finally, while we have several trademarks and licenses to use trademarks, we do not deem these to be material to the overall conduct of our business. Backlog Due to the individualized and customized nature of most dental products and a typical turnaround product cycle of less than seven days, there was no significant backlog of orders existing at December 31, 2006 and 2005. Item 1A.    Risk Factors Our business is subject to certain risks that could materially affect our financial condition, results of operations, and the value of our common stock. These risks include, but are not limited to, the ones described below. Additional risks and uncertainties that we are unaware of, or that we may currently deem immaterial, may become important factors that harm our business, financial condition, results of operations, or the value of our common stock. Our success depends on economic and other external factors that affect consumer decisions about whether and when to have dental procedures performed. Our business success depends in large measure on consumer decisions to have dental procedures performed. In this respect, demand for our products and our business results are sensitive to external factors that, directly or indirectly, affect consumer confidence, affect levels of disposable consumer income, or otherwise lead consumers to defer or elect not to have dental procedures performed. Examples of such external factors include the timing, duration and effects of adverse changes in overall economic conditions, including rates of job loss or growth, rising energy prices, and increases in medical and dental costs, nationally or regionally in the markets we serve. Increased governmental regulation of health care and trends in the dental industry towards managed care may also result in decreased consumer access to dental services and thereby adversely affect demand for our products and our sales and profitability. The precise impact of these external factors is difficult to predict in advance, but one or more of these factors could adversely affect our business to the extent they adversely affect consumer spending on dental procedures. We operate in a highly competitive and fragmented market that is increasingly global in scope. The dental laboratory industry is highly competitive and fragmented. We believe there are currently approximately 12,000 dental laboratories in the United States. We estimate that our sales presently represent less than 3% of the total sales of custom-made dental prosthetic appliances in the United States. Competition is primarily from other dental laboratories in the respective local market areas. The vast majority of dental laboratories consist of single business units, although there are several other multiple-location operators, including the Sentage Corporation d/b/a Dental Services Group, Dental Technologies, Inc., and Americus Dental Labs, Inc., which were recently acquired and recapitalized. These groups compete with us in several market areas. We also face competition from various mail order dental laboratories, most notably Glidewell Laboratories. Our success thus depends on our ability to be competitive against many different competitors in each market area we serve. If we fail to anticipate evolving technological innovations and product offerings from our competitors, particularly offerings that seek to leverage lower labor costs available in foreign countries, or fail to offer products that appeal to the changing needs and preferences of our customers in the various markets we serve, demand for our products could decline and our operating results would be adversely affected. While the competitive importance of product quality, price, service and innovation varies from product to product, price is a factor, and we experience pricing pressures from competitors in our markets. We face increased competitive pressures from larger competitors, foreign-sourced products and technology based solutions. The industry in which we operate continues to change and evolve. Increasing competitive pressures from offshore laboratories based in China, India and elsewhere are impacting sales growth and selling prices of partial frames and traditional crowns. Technology-based dental laboratory computer-assisted design and computer- assisted manufacturing (CAD-CAM) solutions have required us to make additional investments in capital equipment. While we expect these capital investments will benefit our operations in future periods, there is no assurance that they will be able to do so. Moreover, the dental laboratory industry has continued to consolidate and is increasingly drawing the attention of private equity investors. While the consequences of these changes in the dental laboratory industry are not yet fully known, these competitors may now have greater financial and other resources than previously available to them, which could increase competitive pressures on our operations. In addition, we understand that additional entities or funds have been formed with the intention of acquiring dental laboratories. This development could impact the availability of suitable acquisition candidates or otherwise increase the costs of acquiring dental laboratories. Price pressures from such new sources of competition could erode our margins and cause our financial results of operations to suffer. Certain current technology solutions allow dentists to fabricate restorations without the use of a dental laboratory. Our success depends on our ability to evaluate and respond to the threats arising from growing foreign competition, changing marketplaces and new technology and our ability to identify ways in which we can competitively provide the products and services demanded by our customers. Risks associated with our strategic acquisitions could adversely affect our business. We have completed a number of acquisitions in recent years. Our acquisition strategy depends on our ability to identify laboratories that are suitable acquisition candidates, successfully negotiate and enter into transactions on acceptable terms, and our capacity to integrate and successfully operate newly acquired as well as our previously acquired laboratories. If we fail to locate suitable acquisition candidates, reach mistaken conclusions as to the suitability of laboratories as acquisition candidates, enter into transactions on terms that prove unfavorable to us, or fail to integrate new laboratories following an acquisition, our ability to operate and grow our business in the ways we would like could be materially and adversely effected. While we will continue to consider acquisitions as a means of enhancing shareowner value, acquisitions involve risks and uncertainties, including:   •  difficulties integrating the acquired company, retaining the acquired laboratories’ customers, and achieving the expected benefits of the acquisition, such as revenue increases, cost savings, and increases in geographic or product presence, in the desired time frames, if at all;     •  loss of key employees from the acquired company;     •  implementing and maintaining consistent standards, controls, procedures, policies and information systems; and     •  diversion of management’s attention from other business concerns. Future acquisitions could cause us to incur additional debt, contingent liabilities, increased interest expense and higher amortization expense related to intangible assets, as well as experience dilution in earnings per share. Impairment losses on goodwill and intangible assets with an indefinite life, or restructuring charges, could also occur as a result of acquisitions. If we fail to develop new or expand existing customer relationships, our ability to grow our business will be impaired. Our growth depends on our ability to develop new customer relationships with dentists, maintain existing relationships, and to expand existing relationships with our current customers. We cannot guarantee that new customers will be found, that any such new relationships will be successful when they are in place, or that business with current customers will increase. Failure to develop and expand such relationships could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition. Our failure to attract and retain qualified personnel would adversely affect our business. Our success depends in part on the efforts and abilities of our senior management team and key employees, a number of which are approaching retirement age. Their skills, experience and industry contacts significantly benefit our operations and administration. The failure to attract, retain, and properly motivate the members of our senior management team and key employees, or to find suitable replacements for them in the event of death, ill health, or retirement, could have a negative effect on our operating results. Our business results are adversely affected by increases in labor, benefits and related costs. The costs of medical and other benefits have increased in recent years. The increased usage of medical benefits has intensified medical inflation in the United States. If such trends continue, then our business could be negatively affected. Changes in law that may increase the funding of, and the expense reflected for, employee benefits, could also adversely affect our financial results of operations, financial position, and competitiveness. If we cannot continue to respond to technical innovations we may not be able to compete effectively. We believe that our future success will depend, in part, upon our ability to continue to respond to technological innovations by the dental industry and introduce innovative design extensions for our existing products and to manufacture and market new products. We cannot assure you that we will be successful in the introduction, manufacturing and marketing of any new products or product innovations, or develop and introduce, in a timely manner, innovations to our existing products that satisfy our dentist customers’ needs or achieve market acceptance. Our failure to introduce new products successfully and in a timely manner, and at favorable margins, could harm our ability to successfully grow our business and could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition. Our operating results can be adversely affected by changes in the cost or availability of raw materials, particularly precious metals like gold, platinum and palladium. Pricing and availability of raw materials for use in our businesses — most especially precious metals, like gold, platinum and palladium which are components of many dental alloys — can be volatile due to numerous factors beyond our control, including domestic and international economic and geopolitical conditions, production levels, competition, consumer demand, and investor speculation. This volatility can significantly affect the availability and cost of raw materials for us, and may, therefore, have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition. During periods of rising prices of raw materials, there can be no assurance that we will be able to pass any portion of such increases on to customers. Prolonged higher metal costs may thus have a negative impact on gross profit percentages. Conversely, when raw material prices decline, customer demands for lower prices could result in lower sale prices and, to the extent we have existing inventory, lower margins. As a result, fluctuations in raw material prices could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition. The combination of higher precious metal prices and increasing offshore competition has made it more difficult for us to pass on these additional costs without impacting our customer base. Our failure to generate sufficient cash to meet our liquidity needs may affect our ability to service our indebtedness and grow our business. Our ability to make payments on and to refinance our indebtedness, principally the amounts borrowed under our senior credit facility, and to fund planned capital expenditures and expansion efforts and strategic acquisitions we may make in the future, if any, will depend on our ability to generate cash in the future. This, to a certain extent, is subject to general economic, financial, competitive and other factors that are beyond our control. Based on our current level of operations, we believe our cash flow from operations, together with available cash and available borrowings under our senior credit facility, will be adequate to meet future liquidity needs for at least the next twelve months. However, we cannot assure you that our business will generate sufficient cash flow from operations in the future, that our currently anticipated growth in revenues and cash flow will be realized on schedule or that future borrowings will be available to us under the senior credit facility in an amount sufficient to enable us to service indebtedness, undertake strategic acquisitions to grow our business, or to fund other liquidity needs. If we need to refinance all or a portion of our indebtedness, we cannot assure you that we will be able to do so on commercially reasonable terms or at all. The amounts that we have borrowed under our senior credit facility have increased significantly as a result of our acquisitions of Green in 2005 and Keller in 2006. Increased borrowings will increase substantially the amount of cash that we need to generate from our operations in order to meet our principal and interest payment obligations. An impairment in the carrying value of goodwill or other acquired intangibles could negatively affect our operating results and net worth. The carrying value of goodwill represents the fair value of acquired businesses in excess of identifiable assets and liabilities as of the acquisition date. The carrying value of other intangibles represents the fair value of trademarks, trade names and other acquired intangibles as of the acquisition date. Goodwill and other acquired intangibles expected to contribute indefinitely to our cash flows are not amortized, but must be evaluated by our management at least annually for impairment. If carrying value exceeds current undiscounted cash flows, an impairment is identified. The impairment is then measured based on the difference of fair value (discounted cash flow) and carrying value. Events and conditions that could result in impairment include changes in the industry in which we operate, as well as competition and advances in technology, or other factors leading to reduction in expected sales, profitability or cash flows. If the value of goodwill or other acquired intangibles is impaired, our earnings and net worth could be adversely affected. Compliance with changing regulation of corporate governance, public disclosure, and accounting standards may result in additional expenses and risks. Changing laws, regulations and standards relating to corporate governance, public disclosure and changes to accounting standards and practices, including the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, new Securities and Exchange Commission regulations and evolving rules applicable to publicly-traded companies on the NASDAQ Global Market, are creating uncertainty, and hence risks, for companies such as ours. These new or changed laws, regulations and standards are subject to varying interpretations due to the fact that they are new and there has not yet emerged a well-developed body of interpretation. As a result, their application in practice may evolve over time as new guidance is provided by regulatory and governing bodies. This development could result in continuing uncertainty regarding compliance matters and higher costs necessitated by ongoing revisions to disclosure, governance and accounting practices. Our efforts to comply with evolving laws, regulations and standards have resulted in, and are likely to continue to result in, increased general and administrative expenses and an investment of management time and attention from revenue-generating activities to compliance activities. In particular, our efforts to comply with Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 and the related regulations regarding our required assessment of our internal controls over financial reporting and our external auditors’ audit of that assessment has required the commitment of significant financial and managerial resources. If our efforts to comply with new or changed laws, regulations and standards differ from the activities intended by regulatory or governing bodies, we could face many material and adverse consequences, including, a possible delisting of our common stock. Forward Looking Statements Certain statements in this Annual Report, particularly statements contained in Item 7, “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” constitute “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. The words “anticipate”, “believe”, “estimate”, “expect”, “plan”, “intend” and other similar expressions are intended to identify these forward-looking statements, but are not the exclusive means of identifying them. Forward-looking statements included in this Annual Report or hereafter included in other publicly available documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”), reports to our stockholders and other publicly available statements issued or released by us involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties, and other factors which could cause our actual results, performance (financial or operating) or achievements to differ from the future results, performance (financial or operating) or achievements expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements. Such future results are based upon our best estimates based upon current conditions and the most recent results of operations. Various risks, uncertainties and contingencies could cause our actual results, performance or achievements to differ materially from those expressed in, or implied by, the forward-looking statements contained in this Annual Report. These include, but are not limited to, those listed above in this Item 1A, “Risk Factors.” Item 1B.    Unresolved Staff Comments Not applicable.

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