Demand for robotic surgery drives Intuitive shares to fresh highs

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Intuitive Surgical led the S&P 500 higher on Wednesday after the medical equipment maker reported upbeat first quarter results and lifted its outlook for procedure growth.

Shares in the company, whose da Vinci surgical systems dominate the laparoscopic surgery market, climbed as much as 7.6 per cent to hit a new record high of $817.20, before trimming back those gains to trade about 7 per cent higher at pixel time. That took the company’s year-to-date gains to nearly 28 per cent and lifted its market value to $29.4bn.

The rally came as revenues for the three months to end of March rose more than 13 per cent from a year ago to $674.2m, ahead of analysts estimates of $665.7m. The California-based company said procedures conducted by the da Vinci system grew nearly 18 per cent worldwide — driven primarily by growth in US general surgery procedures and worldwide urologic procedures that focus on the urinary tract system and male reproductive organs. The number also tops the 11 per cent growth that analysts had forecast.

Profits rose to $179.8m or $4.67 a share during the quarter, from $136.4m or $3.54 a share in the year ago period. That eclipsed analysts expectations of $4.03. Adjusting for one-time items earnings of $5.09 a share also handily beat forecasts.

As a result of the strong demand for robot assisted surgery, the company lifted its annual procedure growth guidance to 12 to 14 per cent, from 9 to 12 per cent previously. “That is actually the same beat and raise pattern that Intuitive Surgical had in 2016, where it ended the year with 15% procedure growth,” Matthew Taylor, an analyst at Netnet, said.

“We see positive signs of continued adoption in hernia/colorectal, thoracic procedures, strong international growth and continued growth in mature categories adding up to more upside.”

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