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Did Air Methods Fly Away?



January 25, 2011 – Comments (0)

Hey Fools,

Here is an interesting (and humbling) exercise. Harken back to November 16, 2010. Why? Well there was an article published by Roger Friedman on a few of my watchlisters as well as one that sort of "took off" and got away. The one that got away was Air Methods (AIRM) and I thought it worth taking a look at the company today to see how things are going.

On November 16, AIRM closed at $41.55 which was a little bit higher that the mid-$30s when I first got the stock on my radar. Lots of stuff to like about the company, a leader in a fragmented field, no behemoth in the market that will take them down (so it appears). And very specialized work, capital intensive with some barriers to entry. What I would call a pretty decent competitive position.

I saw an article today that caught my eye:

A summation:

"Air Methods Corporation (Nasdaq:AIRM - News), the largest air medical transportation company in the world, recently was informed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that it successfully exited Level 2 status in the FAA's Safety Management System (SMS) pilot program. Air Methods is the only helicopter air medical operator to have exited Level 1 and Level 2 in the FAA's SMS voluntary implementation program, and one of only eight commercial air operators (including major commercial U.S. airlines) in the nation to earn a Level 2 exit SMS status acknowledgement letter."

The company is firing on all cylinders it would appear. Today the stock is over $51 and still going strong, though it has pulled back from a recent high of close to $60 just a couple of weeks ago.

So what do I take from this? Is AIRM a lost opportunity that I should just eliminate from the watchlist and move on? I don't think so. If it is one thing I have learned as a Fool, never be afraid to add to winners, and never anchor to a price you have set in your mind. Otherwise you may miss an investment completely. I may have missed this one too, time will tell I guess.

Every time I looked at it in the beginning I thought to myself that I could either get it cheaper or the market was set for a big correction. Health care reform was another one that was up in the air and with their exposure to Medicare and Medicaid, I was still on the fence. All the time I more or less ignored the quality of the business, even though I knew (and know) this is a quality business and management is a big part of their success. For me management is a major part of the process, so when management is solid, I tend to pay attention. You can find my initial take on AIRM back in this article I wrote back in October 2010:

Incidentally October 15, the day this article came out, AIRM closed at $42.94.

So what in the world is stopping me from buying it right now? Honestly probably nothing other than the same old song and dance. Though with the recent pull back I have to wonder a bit what may be going on. Small caps like these usually end up getting bought out eventually (usually at a nice premium). But maybe AIRM is different. I guess we will see, but this one that got away maybe hasn't just yet.



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