While makers of medical devices have stomached more than a year’s worth of an extra 2.3% tax on everything they sell making their wares a little less marketable, they’re still surviving after all.
Indeed, given how well some of these healthcare stocks have performed so far in 2014, one has to wonder whether investors now believe they’ve overshot on their pessimism surrounding these stocks.
Either way, a handful of medical device makers are looking like great buys at their current prices, despite a nagging tax — part of Obama’s healthcare overhaul — that has been making life difficult for them since the beginning of 2013.
In no particular order, here’s a look at five appealing healthcare stocks dealing in medical devices:
Medical Devices: Medtronic (MDT)
As much of a hurdle as the still-fairly new excise creates for device makers, demand for heart-surgery and cardiovascular equipment is almost always in a position to override price-related balks.
Enter Medtronic (MDT).
Already established as one of the leading medical equipment manufacturers in the world, Medtronic is now blazing new trails for itself. A couple weeks ago, its CoreValve heart-valve-replacement hardware was given regulatory approval by the FDA, and its SureScan pacemaker was deemed safe for patients needing an MRI, with none of the usual positioning restrictions necessary with other pacemakers. The CoreValve could be a real game-changer, as its use is minimally invasive; there’s nothing out there as easy for heart patients to tolerate.
Shares of MDT stock have fallen 6% since their early January peak, but have been in an uptrend since late 2011 … one of the few stocks in the medical device world that has been rock-solid in a rocky environment.
Medical Devices: ConMed Corp. (CNMD)
With a market cap of only $1.2 billion, ConMed Corp. (CNMD) isn’t exactly a household name. That doesn’t mean CNMD stock can’t be a potent addiction to a portfolio, though.
ConMed develops surgical products and monitoring devices. At first glance, its lineup seems run-of-the-mill within the medical device world. The longer an investor studies its vast array of surgical products, however, the clearer it becomes that ConMed has mastered the art of minimally invasive solutions.
In this new era of stingier insurers and pickier patients, the importance of such procedures can’t be overstated.
Medical Devices: St. Jude Medical (STJ)
While St. Jude Medical (STJ) might not have a flagship product that turns heads every time it’s mentioned, it more than makes up for a lack of pizzazz with a large library of highly marketable and consistently-selling medical devices. And, jiving with that broad observation is last quarter’s 2.5% improvement in the bottom line, and a 2014 outlook that affirmed the company’s expectation for a return of earnings and revenue growth.
Throw in the fact that St. Jude Medical just authorized a STJ stock buyback program of $700 million — versus a market cap of roughly $18 billion — and what you’ve got is the convergence of a bunch of bullish factors that didn’t exist before.
All that being said, while St. Jude Medical might have never been known as a device pioneer, the acquisitions of Nanostim and Endosense have given STJ stock holders some exposure to pacemakers without pesky leads (where the “pulse” is created), and exposure to atrial fibrillation treatment without the use of drugs. This year might mark a serious upgrade for the company’s product lines.
Medical Devices: Smith & Nephew plc (SNN)
Priced at a trailing P/E of 24 and a forward-looking P/E of 17, it’s not like you can call Smith & Nephew plc (SNN) a screaming value. It’s a reliable growth machine, however, in terms of earnings as well as revenue.
This year shouldn’t be any different for anyone who owns SNN stock. In fact, Smith & Nephew plc might have a much better 2014 (and beyond) than most investors may be expecting.
How so? In November, Smith & Nephew unveiled a biocomposite material for use in arthroscopic surgeries — the Healicoil suture anchor — and just last week the company announced encouraging results from a third-party study of its negative-pressure wound therapy system used on closed surgical incisions. It sounds minor, but that technology could open a big door for Smith & Nephew as well as SNN stock owners.
Medical Devices: Intuitive Surgical (ISRG)
Intuitive Surgical (ISRG) shares took a big hit late last week following its fourth-quarter numbers, but bear in mind that ISRG stock had been through an overheated run-up in the days before that. Even with Friday’s 6% selloff, Intuitive Surgical shares are up 7% year-to-date — a paradigm shift compared to 2013’s 21% slide.
So what makes ISRG stock such a hot buy now? After all, the company warned investors to expect lower revenues, and this is the same company that makes the highly suspect, possible-problem-causing da Vinci robotic surgery system.
As is so often the case, the story was made far more dramatic than it really was. It looks like the market’s starting to figure that out, bidding ISRG stock up as a result.
Just brace for more volatility, as some traders and observers (and those with short positions in the stock) are apt to rehash the da Vinci news and the revenue warning repeatedly in the foreseeable future.
As of this writing, James Brumley did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.