Three major hurricanes in the third quarter, including one that temporarily halted manufacturing in Puerto Rico, didn’t stop medical device maker Boston Scientific Corp. from increasing sales a tad more than Wall Street had expected.
Hurricanes Harvey and Irma triggered widespread flooding and evacuations in Houston and parts of Florida during the quarter, depressing medical-procedure volumes in those areas, while Hurricane Maria inundated medical-device factories across Puerto Rico, cutting off grid power and making it difficult for many employees to even report for work. A fourth storm, Hurricane Ophelia, had a small impact on operations in Ireland when it hit on Oct 16.
The three storms during the quarter that ended Sept. 30 decreased sales by less than $20 million for Boston Scientific, which employs thousands in Minnesota. The plant in Puerto Rico is back online and operating at about 90 percent capacity with generator power.
“We didn’t really want to overplay the weather card,” CEO Mike Mahoney told stock analysts Thursday in a quarterly earnings call.
Competitor Medtronic has said publicly that the storms may cut revenue by as much as $250 million in the quarter.
Asked whether Boston Scientific would benefit from other companies’ setbacks, Mahoney said, “I think our team has done a really good job of limiting supply outages and having terrific contingency plans and backup plans to minimize those impacts that you’re maybe seeing a little bit stronger from other companies.”
Meanwhile, executives said Boston Scientific continues to make progress on its backlog of legal liabilities, which have been a billion-dollar-plus overhang on the stock and company cash flow for the past several years.
Chief Financial Officer Daniel Brennan said Thursday the company has settlement agreements in place, or is in final-stage negotiations, to resolve 44,000 of the 48,500 known and potential lawsuits facing Boston Scientific over patient injuries blamed on its pelvic-mesh products. Industrywide, well over 100,000 such lawsuits have been filed against mesh manufacturers.
Brennan said Boston Scientific continues to build its legal reserves with the expectation of resolving the majority of its mesh claims in 2018. The legal reserve stood at $1.6 billion as of Sept. 30, he said.
Various legal settlements have required so much cash that they have consumed the majority of Boston Scientific’s free cash flow for several years running. Executives hope that with the mesh litigation resolved, and a sizable payment to the IRS for disputed back taxes in the works, they can begin to devote more of their cash to stock repurchases and mergers-and-acquisitions (M&A).
“M&A and returning cash to shareholders are our two most favored uses of cash. I think we’ve balanced that well over the last four or five years, while at the same time settling a lot of legacy litigation liabilities,” Brennan told investors. Earlier this year, “we talked about 90 percent-plus of our cash over the next three years being able to go toward M&A and share repurchase, where it’s been kind of the reverse of that over the last three or four years.”
At the same time, Boston Scientific is confident it can grow its U.S. cash flow with new products that are already selling well in Europe.
Mahoney said sales grew 9 percent in Europe in the most recent quarter, propelled by sales of products like the Acurate Neo minimally invasive aortic heart valve replacement device, the Eluvia drug-eluting stent system for blocked arteries in the legs, and the Vercise Gevia deep-brain stimulation system to treat Parkinson’s, dystonia and essential tremor. None of those devices is yet approved in the U.S.
“One of the reasons we have confidence in our continued growth profile is because many of those products that we’re selling in Europe today that are doing well are not yet approved in the U.S., and they will be approved in the U.S. over the next coming years,” Mahoney said in a phone interview Thursday.
On Thursday, the company reported adjusted net income of 31 cents per share for the third quarter, in line with expectations. Its $2.2 billion in revenue was slightly above Wall Street estimates and represented growth of about 6 percent over the same quarter last year.
Looking ahead, the Massachusetts-headquartered company increased its full-year sales guidance to a range between $8.99 billion and $9.02 billion, representing an expectation for 7 percent operational growth for the year. The company also tightened its expected full-year earnings range to between $1.24 and $1.27 per share, raising the bottom end of the range by a penny.
Boston Scientific shares closed at $28.82, down 2.7 percent for the day.