Executives at St. Jude Medical have been promising that the company’s recent growth doldrums are due for a turnaround this year, as the device company tees up promising new technologies and finally reaps the benefits from recent innovations.
Chicago’s Abbott Laboratories just bet $30 billion on that promise.
Stock analysts have praised Abbott’s strategic reasoning in offering to pay $25 billion in cash and stock and assume another $5.7 billion in St. Jude debt to acquire the Little Canada-based device company. The deal is expected to close by year’s end.
The rationale for expanding Abbott’s medical-device footprint in hospital purchasing offices was so compelling, Abbott chief executive Miles White said Thursday morning, that many analysts on Wall Street thought the St. Jude acquisition a “no-brainer.”
Yet Abbott’s stock price has dropped 11 percent since the deal was announced. On Friday, its shares were off nearly 4 percent, to $38.90.
The drop shows that many shareholders are “speaking with their feet,” BMO Capital Markets analyst Joanne Wuensch said Friday afternoon.
“People had been expecting Abbott to make an acquisition for growth. St. Jude is a value asset, which can be leveraged over time. Your growth investors that are in Abbott aren’t going to necessarily like a value acquisition. And it’s a big acquisition,” she said.
St. Jude Medical shares also retreated Friday, closing at $76.20, off 2 percent.
Abbott is expecting new and innovative St. Jude products to bolster the company’s top-line revenue, which has fallen in three of the last four years.
Abbott typically averages 6 percent revenue growth, though its medical-device division has been on track for lower single-digit sales growth.
In offering what amounted to a 37 percent premium over St. Jude’s stock price in a buyout, Abbott Chief Financial Officer Brian Yoor told investors Thursday that Abbott was assuming St. Jude will accelerate its operational sales growth to a level in line with Abbott’s revenue growth rate.
“This acceleration will be driven by new product launches and increasing contributions from its higher-growth businesses,” Yoor said.
Abbott wants to invigorate its own medical technology offerings by combining its existing $5 billion medical-device division, which includes $2.8 billion in cardiovascular sales, with St. Jude’s $5.9 billion in sales of high-tech gadgets used on the heart and throughout the body.
A slide deck distributed to Abbott investors highlighted the companies’ most promising offerings, including St. Jude’s HeartMate 3 ventricular assist device, Portico transcatheter aortic valve, HeartMate PHP percutaneous heart pump, Nanostim leadless pacemaker, Infinity deep-brain stimulator, EnSite Precision cardiac mapping system, and Amplatzer Amulet left atrial appendage plug.
None of those devices is yet approved for sale in the United States.
The slide also included St. Jude’s Quadra Assura implantable defibrillator, Quadra Allura pacemaker, and Axium neurostimulator for the dorsal root ganglion — highly touted devices that were approved for U.S. sales in February. St. Jude is also pursuing MRI-compatible pacemakers and implantable defibrillators, which its competitors already have on the market.
Longtime industry analyst Thomas Gunderson, recently retired from Piper Jaffray, said Friday that such a list of new and unapproved devices can be seen as a strength.
“One could argue that a strategic acquirer in med-tech does not want to be saddled with yesterday’s technology, but rather have a strong pipeline that can, over time, be leveraged over a larger global distribution platform,” Gunderson said in an e-mail. “Good companies sell at a premium. How much of a premium can be debated, but what I see is Abbott gaining critical and strategic mass, filling some white spaces in the business portfolio, and negotiating a price that they believe will be accretive to earnings next year.”
The deal is expected to add 21 cents to Abbott’s earnings per share in 2017, though that benefit will be diluted by 7 cents because of the issuance of new Abbott common stock that will take place in the same time period.