The results weren't enough to send the line off the chart, but with low expectations in this market, they didn't really have to. Sales of cardiac rhythm disease management devices, including pacemakers and implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs), fell 4%. The division is still suffering from the fallout of a 2007 recall of one of its ICDs, which helped competitors Boston Scientific
In most of the rest of Medtronic's divisions, sales grew more slowly. The biggest boost came from a 10% increase in sales of cardiovascular products thanks to sales of its drug-eluting stent, Endeavor, which wasn't on the U.S. market in the year-ago quarter. The company recently launched a new delivery system for the stent that doctors prefer, which should help Medtronic fend off a push from Abbott Labs
Combined sales were up just 2.6%, but more importantly, the company was able to cut costs, helping Medtronic boost adjusted earnings per share by 13% over the year-ago quarter. Those cuts were quite impressive and in the right places, too. Medtronic increased spending on research and development -- good for long-term growth -- but still increased operating margins to 30.1% this year from 29.3% last year.
The company won't be able to cut forever, but the leaner Medtronic is certainly easier to love, and stronger revenue growth should come back as the company continues to launch new products.
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Fool contributor Brian Orelli, Ph.D., loves the pressure of Valentine's Day about as much as the next guy. He doesn't own shares of any companies mentioned in this article. The Fool's disclosure policy loves April Fools' Day.