Boston Scientific Corp. is hoping to extend its recent financial success into 2015, but barriers to that goal loom large.
The maker of advanced heart devices and other health care gadgets plans to roll out several major products in 2015 to boost revenue. But to grow profits, the company will have to cut administrative overhead, manage international currency problems, and hope for a favorable ruling in a $7 billion lawsuit awaiting a judge’s verdict.
“We feel like, heading into 2015, we have good momentum as a company,” Chief Financial Officer Dan Brennan said in an interview.
On Wednesday, Boston reported a fifth consecutive quarter of revenue growth. That follows a three-year period in which the company grew its revenue in only one of a dozen quarters.
Beating 2014 will not be easy for the Marlborough, Mass.-based company, which employs more than 5,000 people in the Twin Cities. Boston Scientific had worldwide sales of $7.38 billion in 2014, and in official guidance the company projects 2015 sales totaling anywhere from a decline of 1 percent to growth of 2 percent. Taking out expected fluctuations in currency values, the company projects revenue growth between 3 and 6 percent.
“After several years of slow growth, they have turned the corner. And they have several products in the pipeline, along with a product that is on the market, the S-ICD, that is showing nice growth potential,” said Greg Chodaczek, an analyst with Sterne Agee.
The S-ICD is a small, implantable cardioverter defibrillator that sits under the skin but is not directly connected to the heart. The company has set U.S. sales targets of more than $100 million in 2014.
Chodaczek said it’s already a one-of-a-kind technology that will see a second-generation device launch, called Emblem, in late 2015.
Brennan, the company CFO, said Boston is also planning for a long rollout of its forthcoming Watchman device, assuming it will be approved by the FDA this spring or summer.
The Watchman is a device invented by Minnesota doctors to seal off an area of the heart where blood collects and forms dangerous clots in patients with fluttering heartbeats. It’s been recommended for approval in higher-risk patients who can’t take blood-thinning drugs to achieve the same goal. The company has said there’s a potential $500 million global market for the device, though an FDA approval carrying restrictions could shrink that number considerably.
“We believe we will be in the market without a competitive entry for some time,” Brennan said. “It’s not really about a race in 2015. It’s really about thoughtfully developing a market in the long-term with Watchman.”
In a conference call with analysts Wednesday, Brennan said the company has not been satisfied with its high level of administrative spending and will look to change its culture around spending on things like travel, meetings, supplies and royalties.
And like many global med-tech devicemakers, Boston will face significant foreign-currency challenges because the dollar has advanced quickly against the yen and the euro. That means sales in Japan and the eurozone don’t translate into as many dollars as they used to.
Chodaczek estimated currency difficulties would shave about 4 cents off earnings per share in 2015. Boston projects adjusted earnings for the year will be between 88 cents and 92 cents per share on at least $7.3 billion in revenue.
Coincidentally, that figure is almost exactly what the Johnson and Johnson corporation is hoping a federal judge will order Boston to pay it as part of an ongoing lawsuit.
U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan in New York City is slated to rule soon on whether Boston damaged Johnson and Johnson by interfering with its ability to buy the Twin Cities’ Guidant Corp. in 2006. J&J has asked Sullivan to rule that Boston’s actions a decade ago caused it $4.3 billion in damages, plus $3 billion in interest.
Boston argued that Johnson was never damaged because all it lost was the chance to pay too much money to buy an overpriced Guidant. Brennan reiterated the Boston’s position that the company is comfortable with the set of facts that were presented during the bench trial.
Boston posted adjusted earnings of 22 cents per share in the most recent quarter, in line with consensus estimates.
Boston had worldwide sales growth of nearly 3 percent to $1.9 billion in the quarter ended Dec. 31. That range was within the guidance provided by the company for the quarter but just less than analysts’ estimates.
But net income for the fourth quarter was $87 million, a decline of 19 percent from the same period a year ago.
For all of 2014, Boston reported earnings of $267 million, or 20 cents per share, compared with a $121 million loss in 2013. Its $7.38 billion in 2014 sales was up from $7.14 billion in 2013.