Intuitive Surgical (ISRG -1.14%) has shown us that it can be a great long-term investment. Shares of the robotic surgery leader have climbed more than 400% over the past decade. Last year, the stock even topped $1,000. Later on in the year, Intuitive announced a stock split -- lowering the value of each individual share.
Often, companies launch a split after shares have greatly gained in value. The advantages? The move makes it easier for a broader range of investors to buy the stock. And a split also opens the door to bigger share gains. It's easier for a stock trading for a few hundred dollars to multiply than one trading for more than $1,000. It's been six months since Intuitive's three-for-one stock split. Let's see how things are going.
Immediately after the split
Here, I'll look at share performance and the company's financial performance. They don't necessarily reflect each other. Intuitive's shares began trading at the split-adjusted price on Oct. 5. They gained about 10% in the month following the operation. Since that high point, they've dropped more than 16%. It's not surprising that the stock increased immediately after the split. Investors who might have hesitated to invest $1,000 in Intuitive now had the opportunity make a smaller bet. (There's always the possibility of buying fractional shares of high-priced stocks. But some brokerages don't offer them. And some investors prefer buying a full share anyway.)
But why has Intuitive stock suffered since that initial increase? In the near term, investors may worry about more coronavirus disruptions to business. At certain times during the pandemic, hospitals postponed non-essential surgeries. And that meant they weren't buying the instruments and accessories Intuitive sells for use with its da Vinci robotic surgery system. It also means hospitals were too busy managing the coronavirus situation to consider installing new da Vinci systems. Over the longer term, investors may worry that rivals will take market share from Intuitive.
In my opinion, both of those concerns are overdone. First, let's talk about the idea of more coronavirus disruptions. It's impossible to exclude this risk. The company even said in its fourth-quarter 2021 earnings report that "COVID-19 has had, and will likely continue to have, an adverse impact on the company's procedure volumes." But if you're a long-term investor, you'll want to consider Intuitive's prospects over a number of years -- not just during the pandemic.
A long track record
Intuitive has generally increased revenue and profit over the past 10 years.
And even considering the pandemic, Intuitive has managed to keep growing. I said I would talk about the company's financial performance since the stock split. And it's been positive. In the fourth quarter, da Vinci procedures increased 19% year over year. The company's da Vinci installs rose 18%. Revenue climbed 17% to $1.55 billion. And net income on a GAAP basis advanced about 4% to $381 million.
A possible resurgence in coronavirus cases isn't great for Intuitive. But here's the good news: That sort of problem is temporary. And that means it shouldn't affect revenue or share performance over the long term.
Now, what about the problem of competition? Right now, Intuitive holds 71% of the robotic surgery market, according to Reanin Research and Consulting. Its very closest competitor is Stryker -- and that company holds only 15%. So Intuitive clearly is way ahead of rivals.
Still, the picture could change a few years down the road, right? Not necessarily. Hospitals worldwide have installed a total of 6,730 da Vinci robots. These robots cost about $2 million. And many surgeons are trained on the system. It seems unlikely that a hospital -- and surgeons -- will move to a rival product after investing so much in the da Vinci.
What does all this mean for investors?
Intuitive hasn't been an instant winner for investors after its stock split. But that's OK. I'll take a success story that takes time but lasts over an immediate -- but brief -- gain any day.
Aside from the recent stock performance, the rest of Intuitive's picture looks bright. Procedures, installations of new systems, and earnings are on the rise. This follows a long track record of growth. And it doesn't look like rivals have an easy road ahead of them. All of this points to the ingredients needed for another stock performance win -- over the long term.