Some investors weren't happy campers after Intuitive Surgical (NASDAQ:ISRG) reported its first-quarter results after the market closed on Thursday. After ending 2018 on a strong note in Q4, the robotic surgical systems maker missed Wall Street analysts' earnings estimates in Q1.
Shares of Intuitive Surgical dropped more than 6% in after-hours trading on Thursday. The stock market was closed on Friday, but you can expect that Intuitive will open down several percentage points on Monday morning.
Were the company's results that bad? Not really. Here are five reasons you don't need to worry at all about Intuitive Surgical's Q1 miss.
1. Changing dynamics that should be positive over the long run
Intuitive Surgical reported Q1 revenue of $973.7 million, slightly above the $973.4 million consensus analysts' estimate. But the important thing for investors to understand is that the dynamics are changing for Intuitive in a way that will cause revenue to be lower over the short term but greater over the long term.
For one thing, more customers are trading in older da Vinci systems. These trade-ins lower Intuitive's average selling price since the company gives customers credit toward a new da Vinci. However, customers with new systems are more likely to perform higher volumes of procedures. That should increase revenue over the long run.
Increasingly more customers are also choosing to lease systems rather than purchase them. Intuitive Surgical CEO Gary Guthart stated in the company's Q1 conference call that the percentage of systems leased increased to 33% in Q1 from 29% just last quarter. Again, this negatively impacts revenue at first but boosts revenue over time.
2. Higher spending -- but for good reasons
There's one simple explanation for why Intuitive Surgical's adjusted Q1 earnings of $2.61 per share missed the average analysts' estimate of $2.70 per share: The company's spending soared. In this case, though, the higher spending appears to be for good reasons.
Intuitive Surgical CFO Marshall Mohr said that the primary reasons for increased expenses were Intuitive's expansion outside of the U.S., investments in informatics capabilities, and beefing up infrastructure to scale the business. Higher spending for these reasons should mean short-term pain but long-term gain.
3. Share buybacks are likely on the way
Intuitive Surgical's share price might languish as a result of its Q1 disappointment initially. However, that will likely cause the company to begin buying back shares. And if that happens, the pullback for Intuitive stock probably won't last very long.
In January, Intuitive Surgical's board of directors authorized an increase of $2 billion to its stock repurchase program. The company had $717.5 million remaining in its authorized buyback program as of the end of 2018.
Intuitive didn't buy back any shares during the first quarter. It now has a whopping $5.1 billion in cash, cash equivalents, and investments. It would make sense for the company to take advantage of a temporary decline in its share price to start putting that cash to work.
4. It's really early for several new growth drivers
The seeds for Intuitive Surgical's near-term growth have already been planted and are just now beginning to sprout. Intuitive has several new products that are in very early stages that should drive growth in the future.
Intuitive only installed six da Vinci SP systems in Q1. The company has been held back by limited manufacturing capability, but those issues shouldn't be problematic going forward.
Intuitive Surgical received FDA clearances for two new systems in the first quarter: its Ion platform focused on lung biopsy, and its IRIS augmented reality system, which targets aiding surgeons before and during surgery using a 3D image of a patient's anatomy. The company doesn't expect much in the way of revenue from either system in 2019. However, both Ion and IRIS should be big winners for Intuitive down the road.
5. Tremendous growth opportunities remain
Last, but not least, investors shouldn't worry about Intuitive Surgical's Q1 earnings miss because the company still has tremendous growth prospects. Guthart was right in his statement during the Q1 conference call that "outstanding product design, robotics, advanced imaging, and informatics are just starting to take their place in surgery and in acute interventions more broadly."
Intuitive's recurring revenue continues to soar, up 20% year over year and now generating 77% of total revenue. The company's innovative new technology should open up new areas of use for robotic systems. Intuitive is accelerating its efforts to expand outside the U.S.
Guthart and his team believe that "there is a substantial and durable opportunity to fundamentally improve surgery and acute interventions." For this reason above all, Intuitive Surgical still looks like a stock to buy and hold for the long term.