Growth Accelerates at Intuitive Surgical

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It hasn't been an easy road for Intuitive Surgical (NYSE: ISRG ) bulls in recent months. The stock has been in a downtrend since late April as investors question growth prospects ahead.

High-multiple stocks like Intuitive Surgical are held to a high standard during earnings season and the company didn't disappoint, temporarily allaying fears about slowing growth.

Growth-fund managers love accelerating sales growth, and Intuitive Surgical showed it across many areas when the company reported fourth-quarter results Tuesday after the close.

Fourth-quarter profit at Intuitive Surgical rose 13 percent to $4.25 a share, above the Thomson Reuters consensus estimate of $4.04.

Sales growth had been decelerating in recent quarters, but growth re-accelerated in the fourth quarters, rising 23 percent from a year ago to $609.3 million. Analysts were modeling $584.4 million.

Revenue from system sales rose 18 percent to $264.9 million, an acceleration from 17 percent growth in the third quarter. Revenue from instrument and accessory sales rose 29 percent to $253.8 million, an acceleration from 24 percent growth in the third quarter.

The company sold 175 da Vinci systems in the quarter, up 15 percent from a year ago. Overall procedures rose 25 percent from a year ago, driven mostly by U.S. gynecological and general surgery growth. The da Vinci system is also used in other surgical procedures including urologic, cardiothoracic and prostatectomies. Intuitive's bread-and-butter procedure used to be prostatectomies but not anymore as medical treatment for prostate cancer shifts away from surgery.

Internationally, Intuitive Surgical continues to make progress. In the fourth quarter, the company received clearance to start selling the da Vinci system in Japan. Shipments should start in the first quarter. In Europe, Intuitive saw a "significant increase" in system sales, but CEO Gary Guthart said: "We have more work to do in building our organization to perform in a challenging environment. We expect these challenges in Europe and our investments to continue for the next several quarters."

Price and volume trends in Intuitive Surgical were suspect to say the least ahead of the results. Since late April, the company's market capitalization dropped by nearly $3 billion. The stock cratered 10.7 percent over two sessions just before Christmas after Citron Research made negative amounts about the company.

Concerns about slowing growth are in the rear-view mirror for now. In pre-market trading, shares of Intuitive Surgical soared 8.4 percent to $562.

(c) 2013 Benzinga.com. Benzinga does not provide investment advice. All rights reserved.

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This article appears in: Investing , Investing Ideas

Referenced Stocks: ISRG

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