One of the best ways to develop a picture of any company is with the SWOT analysis -- a look at a company's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Let's take a look at Boston Scientific
- Heart device leader. While the company likely overpaid for its megapurchase of Guidant, the acquisition did give the company depth.
- New focused management. When Jim Tobin stepped down as CEO last year, shares went up 5%, so you can tell what investors thought of the old guy. The new CEO, Ray Elliott, seems focused on hitting the right spots for growth.
- Constantly evolving industry. The competitive nature of the medical device industry means heavy spending on research and development to best the competition.
- Recall. An FDA paperwork snafu earlier this year had its heart defibrillators off the market for a couple of weeks. How much it'll affect doctors' view of its products remains to be seen.
- Reinventing the wheel. The company has been restructuring longer than many preschoolers have been alive. Cost cutting is good in the long run, but severance packages can be expensive.
- Cash. Boston Scientific had a little over $800 million in the bank at the end of the second quarter, which should be enough for a few tuck-in or bolt-on acquisitions.
- Other treatments. The opportunity for growth outside the company's stronghold. Last week, the company picked up Asthmatx, which makes a catheter system for treating asthma.
Crowded industry. Competing with Johnson & Johnson
(NYSE: JNJ), Medtronic (NYSE: MDT), and Abbott Labs (NYSE: ABT)on the vascular stent side and Medtronic and St. Jude Medical (NYSE: STJ)on the defibrillator side doesn't make for smooth sailing.
- Food and Drug Administration. In addition to the usual grind of having to get past the agency every time a company wants to launch a new product, Boston Scientific has the added issue of having a checkered past with the agency. Before the company bought Guidant, Guidant was under investigation with the FDA for failing to include information about its heart devices in reports to the agency. More recently, it ended up having to recall products because it didn't submit the necessary paperwork for changing a manufacturing procedure. Whether the episode will have a long-term effect on Boston Scientific's ability to get devices approved remains to be seen.
Overall, I'm not yet convinced that the strengths and opportunities overwhelm the weakness and threats. Boston Scientific may have hit rock bottom, but investors would be wise to wait until the new management has proven itself before buying in.
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