An Empire Strykes Back

The summer of 2006 did not bring good news for management at orthopedic-product maker Stryker (NYSE: SYK  ) . The company received a subpoena from the Department of Justice amid industrywide allegations of kickbacks and anti-competitive business practices. Cool-headed investors who decided to pick up shares of Stryker during this time have since been handsomely rewarded.

The stock has risen more than 70% since then, and the good news for Stryker continues to roll in. Yesterday, the company reported an impressive third quarter, including a 22.2% increase in quarterly earnings per share from continuing operations, as well as an 18% surge in Q3 net sales.

The company saw strong results from both of its major business segments. Stryker continues to cash in on an aging baby boomer generation, as witnessed in its orthopedic-implant business, where revenue grew by 15.4% versus the year-ago quarter. Stryker's MedSurg equipment business also experienced vibrant results, with a 22% increase in sales.

Stryker has been the lead dog among major players in orthopedic implants. However, Smith & Nephew (NYSE: SNN  ) has risen about 20% year to date, and Zimmer Holdings (NYSE: ZMH  ) , which reports its earnings next week, is expecting full-year earnings growth of nearly 19%. Further good news for the industry came last month, when Stryker, Zimmer, Smith & Nephew, and Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ  ) all were able to resolve their respective investigations pending with the Justice Department.

With the Justice investigation out of the way, and management expecting adjusted full-year results to include a 20% increase in EPS from continuing operations, Stryker continues to remain an attractive investment option for Fools who want a consistent performer for the long haul.

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