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York-based Dentsply International a steady market performer

But growing conservatively does have some detractors, analyst says

At the same time efforts are under way to attract new medical manufacturing businesses to York County, Dentsply International Inc., with 100 years of experience, is making dental equipment in York and selling it worldwide.
The York-based firm, which has been expanding its reach in the sales and services spectrums recently, is noted for a steady growth trajectory that can draw both admiration and criticism for being a little too cautious, analysts said.

Dentsply recently signed a deal with United Kingdom-based GlaxoSmithKline under which Dentsply will sell dentists products that are co-branded with over-the-counter dental-care items made by GlaxoSmithKline.

The move will help increase awareness of both companies’ products with patients and dental professionals, said Michele Mummert, spokeswoman for Dentsply.

Consumers who are aware of and use GlaxoSmithKline brands such as Sensodyne can ask their dentist for co-branded Dentsply products, Mummert said. Tooth sensitivity of varying degrees affects one out of every three people, so it is a potentially lucrative market, she said.

Dentsply also has been upgrading its services for dental labs, which craft jaw bone material and other substances needed for reconstructive dentistry.

As part of its advanced Compartis initiative based on West College Avenue in York, dental labs can send Dentsply digital files of what they need to start creating bone grafts needed for reconstructions, Mummert said.

Local technicians can then punch it into a computer and create the correct item for the labs to use and send it to them, Mummert said. The process is much quicker than labs sending molds to Dentsply, she said.

Dentsply’s reach already is expansive.

The paste that the dentist uses to clean teeth, components for the hand-held equipment that buzzes just out of view and even the holders of X-ray film can be traced back to the firm.

Dentsply also has formed a symbiotic relationship with local dental practices, including allowing members of the York County Dental Society to try new products in the development pipeline to gather feedback, said the group’s president, Dr. Daniel Shalkey.

Local dental practices benefit from working with the newest technologies without having to buy them at first, Shalkey said. Not every product is a winner, he said.

“They value that input,” Shalkey said.

Product diversity is one part of Dentsply’s strength and makes it a steady performer, said Larry Marsh, managing director at Barclays Capital, the investment banking division of Barclays Bank Plc. He expects Dentsply to show improvement going forward compared with recession-era growth.

The Great Recession didn’t hit Dentsply as hard as some other players in the field. Some equipment makers in the sector had sales declines of 10 to 15 percent, Marsh said.

Dentsply also sells it products in many different countries, which hedges against downturns in individual countries or regions.

“They tend to be consistently profitable, even in bad times,” Marsh said.

But many of Dentsply’s diversified products also are lower in price. That means that growth following the recession won’t be steep either, Marsh said.

Some have been critical of the amount of cash Dentsply has been sitting on recently and are taking a wait-and-see attitude toward the firm, Marsh said. But Dentsply recently raised the amount of stock it can buy back, which should play well with investors, he said.

Dentsply also reported earlier this year that a key supplier that contributed to about 9 percent of total sales in 2010 was located in an evacuation zone in Japan following last month’s earthquake, tsunami and beginnings of an ongoing nuclear crisis.

The company has declined to comment further, but Marsh said the disclosure was enough to adjust this year’s expectations. He believes that it is a short-term issue that Dentsply will resolve.

While the firm today sells more than 60 percent of its products outside the United States, it has kept roots firmly planted on West College Avenue in York.

In addition, its corporate headquarters are on West Philadelphia Street and it maintains a production hub on aptly named Smile Way in the York city annex north of Route 30.

Dentsply has operated at 570 W. College Ave. since 1907 and has kept adding capacity to the site, including an expansion to accommodate additional staff members for its North American telesales team.

The company has stayed committed to the area because it allows efficient access to major metropolitan markets and offers a strong industrial workforce, Mummert said.

There are about 1,000 Dentsply employees in York County, with some employees racking up nearly 30 years of service.

“We have a lot of longevity,” Mummert said.

Brent Burkey

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