When VCA Antech says health care has gone to the dogs, it means it. VCA operates the nation's largest chain of animal hospitals -- about 585 in some 40 states and Canada. Its hospitals offer basic wellness checkups, dental care, neutering and spaying, vaccinations, and specialty surgeries. With more than 50 diagnostic laboratories nationwide, VCA also interacts with the animal kingdom by testing blood, tissue, and urine samples for more than 16,000 animal hospitals and practices, universities, and government agencies. Founded in 1986 as Veterinary Centers of America, the company has grown over the years through acquisitions of other animal hospitals and veterinary product suppliers.
From its base in the US, VCA Antech expanded into Canada in 2012. It operates more than 40 animal hospitals and four laboratories in three provinces. (The company doesn't break out financial information for its Canadian business as it's immaterial.)
VCA's growing chain of animal hospitals accounts for more than three-quarters of its sales. About 7.1 million animals visited its hospitals in 2011, compared with 6.8 million in 2010. VCA's 50-plus diagnostic laboratories account for about 20% of sales. In addition to providing animal care and testing, VCA Antech sells diagnostic equipment and other medical technology products and related services to the veterinary market.
The company's sales increased more than 7% in 2011 vs. 2010, while net income fell 12% over the same period. Hospital year-to-year sales grew by about 9%, while the laboratories posted a 2% increase. The $104 million increase in 2011 revenue was primarily due to acquired animal hospitals and the purchase of Vetstreet in 2011. Profitability suffered from a decline in profits at its animal hospitals, and to a lesser extent at VCA's labs.
While spending on pet healthcare is somewhat discretionary in that it's vulnerable to economic conditions, VCAs sales have posted annual increases in each of the past four year. However, gains were modest in 2009 and 2010, before picking up in 2011. Net income has trended down over the past three years.
VCA's aggressive expansion strategy has driven steady revenue growth over the years, despite the deep recession and weak recovery taking a toll on consumer confidence. Nevertheless, the company continues to pursue acquisitions. With business picking up in the US in 2011, the company entered the Canadian market in 2012 with its purchase of the remaining shares of Calgary-based Associate Veterinary Clinics (AVC), the operator of 44 hospitals in Alberta, British Columbia, and Ontario. (VCA, which first invested in AVC in 2008, spent $77 million to acquire the company outright.) AVC is Canada's largest pet healthcare service company.
VCA is also extending its reach into new areas of pet healthcare business. In 2011 it purchased MediMedia Animal Health (better known as Vetstreet) from parent MediMedia for $146 million. Vetstreet is a provider of Web and educational content and marketing services geared to veterinarians and pet owners. With the addition of Vetstreet's online communications expertise, VCA hopes to spur pet owner visits to its clinics and drive business for its more than 16,000 clients involved in animal health. It will also attract veterinarians with Vetstreet's continuing education programs. Vetstreet's annual revenues are projected to reach up to $65 million in 2012.