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    9. Summit Technology Inc.

    By Ronald Rosenberg, Globe Staff, 05/18/99

    Robert Palmisano, chief executive of Waltham-based Summit Technology. (Globe Photo / Pat Greenhouse)

    arely three years ago Summit Technology was a scandal-ridden company, undergoing a congressional inquiry and investigations by two federal agencies that sent its stock plummeting amid a river of red ink.

    Last year in a stunning turnaround, the Waltham-based company reported a $36.7 million profit on revenues of $91.6 million, for a 40 percent profit margin.

    The change?

    A surge in the company's core business: providing lasers used in vision correction surgery. The growing popularity of the pricey medical procedure ($2,000 per eye) - plus a new Summit management team, elimination of 19 company-owned vision centers, and a promising acquisition - have turned Summit around.

    Summit shares, as low as 5 7/16 nearly 131/2 months ago, have more than doubled to 11 and keep climbing. The company's 35 percent return on equity ranks fourth among Globe 100 firms.

    ''Emerging from a period of negativity, Summit appears to be regaining fundamental momentum,'' said Hambrecht & Quist analyst Robert C. Faulkner.

    Summit, which initially owned the laser vision correction market by being the first manufacturer to receive US Food and Drug Administration approval, is now playing catch-up to archrival Visx Inc. The Santa Clara, Calif., company prospered from Summit's legal, marketing, and management woes and now controls 75 percent of the vision laser market.

    Although Summit has less than 20 percent market share, Robert Palmisano, the company's chief executive, expects its recent acquisition of Autonomous Technologies Corp. of Orlando, Fla., will give Summit a leg up on new laser technology systems. Rather than sell the laser to ophthalmologists, as Summit did in the past, Palmisano will lease it to them on a per procedure basis.

    While some Wall Street analysts expect Summit to be acquired by a large company in the ophthalmology market, the firm's short-term future is in focus.

    This story ran on page D12 of the Boston Globe on 05/18/99.
    © Copyright 1999 Globe Newspaper Company.

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