With popular new products like insulin devices and neurostimulators for chronic pain already selling well, medical device maker Medtronic is increasing its research and development spending to gear up for its next wave of products in high-growth devices.
The world's largest medical device company, run from offices in Minnesota, said during its quarterly earnings call Tuesday that it is not lowering its long-term outlook in response to uncertainties in international trade. But a spate of tariff activity involving China was one reason why Medtronic decided not to increase its earnings-per-share outlook after it did increase its revenue goals for the year.
"We are a global company and we are affected" by tariffs and trade discussions, chief executive Omar Ishrak told investors. "However … we are confident we can offset any real pressures in that area. And in the end, you have got to remember that the inherent demand for our technologies is something that no country can walk away from, and it's something that we feel responsibility to fulfill for patients around the world."
In the just-ended quarter, Medtronic surpassed adjusted earnings forecasts by 6 cents per share and increased its financial expectations for the rest of the fiscal year, rounding out a quarter that several analysts called solid.
"We thought it was a solid quarter and we think the momentum we've seen for a couple quarters now can continue," said Edward Jones analyst John Boylan, whose note to investors said Medtronic's recent growth should "extinguish" any lingering doubts about the company's ability to create consistent earnings and sales results.
Ishrak was upbeat about Medtronic's current and future performance Tuesday, saying that the company's pipeline of future products and sales of existing high-growth products would help it reliably hit its sales targets.
"We are executing on the strongest pipeline in Medtronic's nearly 70-year history," Ishrak said.
Medtronic shares jumped 5.7 percent Tuesday, to close at $95.17, an all-time high. The stock is up 16 percent since the beginning of the year, compared with a 6 percent gain for the S&P 500 stock index.
Medtronic reported earnings of $1.08 billion on $7.38 billion in revenue for the three months that ended July 27. Revenue was off slightly compared with the same quarter a year ago, but not as sharply as Wall Street's projection of a 2 percent decline. Adjusted earnings per share, which omits restructuring, litigation and other one-time expenses, was $1.17; the consensus analysts' outlook was $1.11.
Operating profit, a closely watched measure at Medtronic, climbed nearly 3 percent to an adjusted $2 billion.
Boylan noted that Medtronic's operating profits remain closely scrutinized following 2015's blockbuster acquisition of Covidien, a transformational $50 billion merger with a surgical supplier that took several years to integrate.
"We think that people were expecting a bump in operating margins on a fairly rapid basis, but usually those things … take a little more time to unfold than people are thinking," Boylan said. "We think this is well underway and we should see operating margins improve, even when we see the increased investment in R & D."
Ishrak said Medtronic's spending on research and development during the quarter grew faster than overall revenue growth. Ishrak mentioned the development of a double-chamber leadless pacemaker, which could be applicable for up to half of all traditional pacemaker patients. (Medtronic's existing leadless pacemaker, the Micra, is a single-chamber device applicable to about 20 percent of all pacemaker patients.)
Chief Financial Officer Karen Parkhill noted that the R & D spending in the quarter was almost half a percent higher than Wall Street consensus estimates. Some of the higher spending involved key clinical trials for a minimally invasive mitral valve replacement device and a renal denervation system for high blood pressure, and accelerated spending on advanced automated insulin pumps, she said.
"Where we can, we would like to continue to invest more in R & D and to accelerate R & D like we did in the first quarter. So we will continue to focus on that through the rest of the year," she said.
Sales of Medtronic heart products grew by 5 percent, to $2.65 billion. Restorative therapies like chronic pain treatments grew by 7 percent, to $1.81 billion, and minimally invasive surgical therapy sales grew by 5 percent, to $1.94 billion.
Diabetes sales grew by 26 percent, to $449 million, which Ishrak said was the group's best quarterly performance in more than a decade. Much of the growth was driven by U.S. sales of the MiniMed 670G insulin pump, for which Medtronic now has 97,000 trained active users and growing, and international sales of the 640G. (The 670G is just beginning to be commercialized in international markets.)
Analysts with Leerink Partners wrote in a note to investors that the company's earnings performance in the quarter was encouraging, highlighting the importance of well-received recent product launches like the 670G and the Intellis spinal cord stimulator.
"If (Medtronic) can continue to successfully execute on a steady stream of new product launches — the company should eventually be increasingly well-positioned to drive growth acceleration," analysts with Leerink Partners wrote.
Looking ahead, Medtronic raised its full-year revenue and EPS guidance. The company now expects organic revenue growth in a range of 4.5 to 5 percent. EPS are forecast to grow by 9 to 10 percent on a constant currency basis during the year — an increase of one percentage point on both ends of the range. Medtronic kept its full-year EPS estimate unchanged at $5.10 to $5.15 per share.