Medtronic, the world's largest medical device maker, is looking to accelerate revenue growth this fiscal year and reinvent surgical procedures with robotics over the next decade.
"We really mean it when we say that today we have the strongest and the broadest pipeline that we've ever had in our history," Medtronic Chief Executive Omar Ishrak told analysts Tuesday shortly after the company posted better-than-expected revenue and earnings for its fiscal first quarter and hiked profit guidance for the year.
Ishrak galloped through a laundry list of upcoming innovations in the earnings conference call, including a tiny pacemaker called the Micra AV that the company expects to fundamentally change the pacemaker market; an improved version of its minimally invasive aortic heart valve, and improved versions of its automated insulin pumps and implantable cardiac monitors.
The Micra AV pacemaker is of particular interest, both to Ishrak and the market. The device is so small that it is delivered via thin tube, and it fits entirely inside the heart, avoiding the need for leads and a "pocket" of tissue in the chest — two sources of problems for traditional pacers. The Micra will sell to hospitals for roughly three times the cost of a traditional $3,500 pacemaker.
Medtronic released an earlier version of the Minnesota-invented Micra in 2016, but it has limited applicability since it can only pace one of the heart's four chambers. The Micra AV will be a dual-chamber pacer and could be used in a majority of patients who need pacemakers. "This is the one product that I am certainly most excited about," Ishrak said.
Longer term, executives are looking forward to the launch of a surgical robot for soft-tissue surgery, which will debut for investors next month and launch commercially overseas before eventually coming to the U.S. market.
Few details are known about the device, which is expected to directly compete with market leader Intuitive Surgical. That California-based robotics maker is on track to surpass $4 billion in revenue this year from its da Vinci robotic surgical systems and related supplies.
"I think it's generally become widely accepted that the efficiencies and the reproducibility that you get with robotics will win the day," said Raj Denhoy, managing director of equities research at Jefferies.
When released, the surgical robot will become Medtronic's second such product, following its Mazor spinal-surgery robotics systems. But it will not be the last. Such systems use advanced analytics to plan surgeries and guide a surgeon's tools precisely into place — abilities that could have wide application for many types of surgery.
"In virtually every area that we have a procedural presence, we will look at robotics," Ishrak said in response to an analyst's question Tuesday.
One executive on the conference call noted that Medtronic is already investigating robotics applications in brain surgery, for example.
For the remaining nine months of its fiscal year, though, Medtronic executives acknowledged that they will have to accelerate organic revenue growth a bit to meet their 4% goal for the year. Organic revenue growth was 3.5% in the first quarter, and is expected to rise at a similar rate in the second quarter.
Analysts with Leerink estimate that the broader med-tech market is growing at about 5%: "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."
Overall, in the just-ended first fiscal quarter, Medtronic beat earnings and revenue expectations with strong sales of devices like minimally invasive aortic heart valves, surgical staplers, and stroke-fighting devices used in the brain.
The device maker, run from offices in Fridley, reported net income of $1.7 billion on worldwide revenue of $7.49 billion during the three months that ended July 26. Its adjusted earnings per share was $1.26, up nearly 8% and 8 cents better than analysts' consensus forecast.
Revenue rose about 1.5%, to $7.49 billion, slightly better than the $7.4 billion consensus estimate by analysts.
Medtronic increased its adjusted-earnings guidance for the fiscal year that ends next April to a range of $5.54 to $5.60 per share, an increase of 10 cents at either end of the range. The company reaffirmed its full-year organic revenue growth guidance of 4%.
Medtronic shares closed at $106.91 Tuesday, up 2.6% for the day.