Intuitive Surgical (ISRG 0.12%) shares slid as much as 9.5% after quarterly earnings missed estimates -- and the robotic surgery giant posted a decline in systems placements. Even before this report, Intuitive's year hasn't been too bright. The stock has declined 40% year to date. Investors have worried about the coronavirus' impact on procedure volume. When coronavirus hospitalizations take up most resources, hospitals postpone non-essential surgeries.
It's true right now is a challenging time for Intuitive. But some of the concerns may be overdone. Especially if you take a long-term view when investing. In fact, there's a piece of excellent news in Intuitive's second-quarter earnings report. This news tells us a lot about the business's health, according to Intuitive's CEO.
Growth in spite of coronavirus disruption
The good news is growth in procedure demand. Even with coronavirus hospitalizations rising in some geographies, Intuitive still posted an increase. Procedures climbed 14% in the quarter year over year. And procedures increased by 22% in countries outside of the U.S. even with a coronavirus lockdown in China.
Importantly, use of the flagship da Vinci robot system across surgical specializations has broadened. In the quarter, the U.S. showed growth in various types of general surgery such as bariatric procedures and hernia repair. A big strength outside of the U.S. has been in urology. Now, other areas such as gynecology and many types of general surgery also are gaining ground.
This is positive for Intuitive. That's because, for every procedure, hospitals must replace certain accessories. Intuitive actually makes more revenue from the sales of accessories and instruments than from the sales of systems. For example, in the quarter, Intuitive generated $895 million from accessories and instruments sales -- and $375 million from systems.
Now, let's take a look at the news that's weighing on Intuitive's share performance. Second-quarter revenue rose 4% to $1.52 billion. That's lower than the average estimate of $1.56 billion. And adjusted earnings per share came in at $1.14. Analysts had expected $1.19. System placements fell 15% from the year-ago period to 279.
The message from management
Intuitive's management has been good about explaining all that's weighing on earnings. The company says the coronavirus has hurt procedure volumes. And Intuitive even says that could continue. Intuitive also offered reasons behind the drop in systems placements. Supply chain issues have slowed down its ability to build -- and therefore deliver -- the robots. And pressure on hospital budgets means they aren't placing orders as quickly as they've done in the past.
The company also showed its faith in its own future by buying back stock in the quarter. It repurchased $500 million in common stock.
It's also worth noting Intuitive has a solid track record of revenue and profit growth.
So, what's ahead for Intuitive? Well, the company may not turn things around overnight. But it's important to remember two things. First, today's challenges are external and temporary. They could continue to make the path rocky for Intuitive for a while. But they won't last forever. Second, Intuitive's procedure gains in spite of the challenges suggest growth really could take off once the general environment improves.
What does this mean for investors?
I'm not worried about Intuitive's current earnings weakness -- due to the reasons behind it. Intuitive continues to grow revenue and use of its robots. It is the global market leader. Management's communications have been clear. And the company's recent share buyback is a sign of confidence. All of these elements outweigh the negative points in the latest earnings report.
Today, the shares trade for 43 times forward earnings estimates. That's down from more than 70 back in January. That looks like a bargain considering the positive elements I've mentioned here. So right now looks like the perfect time to buy and hold on for the long term.