Orthopedic-implant and surgical-product maker Zimmer Holdings
First-quarter results, released after the market closed Wednesday, included another double-digit increase in sales and earnings at Zimmer. Nearly every product category and geographic region experienced robust growth, with notable strength in European knee and hip replacement products. Management even increased overall guidance for the full year and repurchased shares to juice bottom-line numbers further.
Little appears to be standing in Zimmer's way. Sales expansion has slowed over the past few years, but net income margins have steadily improved, as has return on invested capital -- a key Foolish investment metric. In other words, the company is becoming wiser in its old age, replacing slower growth with higher profitability, and whittling its debt levels down to nearly nothing.
Indeed, the entire implant industry continues to fire on all cylinders. Stryker
Implant-related firms have also performed much better than medical-device operators. Drug-eluting stent concerns are derailing prospects at Boston Scientific
There's definitely overlap between these firms and Zimmer; mighty J&J operates in just about every corner of health care, while Medtronic sells products in the spinal implant market. But other than a temporary setback regarding bid-rigging accusations at implant firms last July, Zimmer and its peers have duly rewarded investors. With aging baby boomers increasingly needing implants to remain spry and active, the best may be still to come.
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Fool contributor Ryan Fuhrmann is long shares of Biomet and Johnson & Johnson but has no financial interest in any other company mentioned. Feel free to email him with feedback or to discuss any companies mentioned further. The Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy.