Legal expenses and international currency headaches dragged down earnings at Boston Scientific Corp., but analysts and executives remain relatively upbeat on the medical device company's underlying sales and future outlook.
Boston Scientific, which employs more than 5,000 people in the state, has amassed a litigation reserve of about $1.1 billion to cover its outstanding legal expenses. That includes $119 million to settle claims from nearly 3,000 women who say they were injured by the company's vaginal mesh products for urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.
Assuming the plaintiffs accept the settlement offer revealed Tuesday in securities filings, Boston Scientific will still face active claims from another 22,000 women who say they were injured by the same devices. Chief Executive Michael Mahoney said the company will work to settle many of those cases, too.
"It will take some time. We haven't publicly discussed it, but it will likely take place over the next 24 months," Mahoney said in an interview. "We continue to try cases as appropriate, but we're open to settling specific cases if it makes sense, and if we think it's fair and justifiable."
But in the quarter that ended March 31, it was a $600 million settlement with health care's largest company, Johnson and Johnson, that hit Boston Scientific's earnings. The two companies settled a decade-old lawsuit Feb. 17, just before a verdict was expected on J&J's claim that Boston Scientific's heart-device subsidiary Guidant violated the terms of a confidentiality agreement during a bidding war to acquire Guidant in 2006. J&J had asked for more than $7 billion in damages and interest.
On Tuesday, shares in Boston Scientific dropped 23 cents, or about 1 percent, closing at $17.75.
The company met analyst expectations by reporting adjusted earnings of 21 cents per share for the first quarter. By adjusting the figures to remove the effects of international currency fluctuations, the company reported sales growth of 6 percent compared with the same period last year.
Sales of cardiovascular devices, the company's largest division, rose 10 percent to $712 million on an adjusted basis. Sales of neuromodulation devices that interact directly with the central nervous system rose an adjusted 6 percent to $114 million.
Analysts at Leerink Partners noted that it was the third consecutive quarter of growth of at least 6 percent, after adjusting for currencies. "BSX continued its sales turnaround story, delivering meaningful growth acceleration," Leerink analysts wrote, using Boston Scientific's stock ticker abbreviation.
But like many U.S.-based companies with significant sales overseas, the financial picture was much less rosy without adjusting for the way that the strong dollar makes sales in other currencies appear smaller on paper.
Unadjusted sales were flat at $1.77 billion compared with the year-ago period, causing the company to report a $1 million loss for the quarter compared with net income of $133 million for the comparable period last year.
The company lowered its revenue expectation for the year, based partly on worse-than-expected challenges from currencies. It now expects revenue of as much as $7.3 billion for the year, down from previous guidance of up to $7.5 billion.
"The underlying strength of the company is very strong. But currency is a nearly $500 million head wind in sales, and about a 6- to 7-cent earnings-per-share head wind" for the full year, Mahoney said.