In many respects, writing an earnings preview piece is no fun. After all, you run a very real risk of making some sweeping pronouncement about a company, only to be proven completely wrong a day or two later when the actual results come out. Nevertheless, I feel fairly confident in saying a few things about medical robot maker Intuitive Surgical
First of all, one way or another, the earnings report will likely generate some excitement in the stock. Whether responding with euphoria or melancholy, history here would suggest that the market will not respond to the results with a simple shrug and yawn. So, if you hold this stock today, prepare yourself to see the stock move 10% or more (in either direction) in a single day.
In terms of actual results, analysts are looking for revenue growth of more than 40% on an annual basis (and nearly 7%, sequentially), in addition to a 50% rise in earnings. That said, the company has a pretty enviable record of surpassing reported earnings estimates, so I wouldn't be terribly surprised if Intuitive Surgical "surprises" to the upside again.
Analysts will also likely be paying close attention to unit shipments, disposables sales, and ASPs. Although I would not be terribly concerned if unit placements slowed a bit for one quarter, the disposables (also called recurring revenue) item is more important to me. Disposables track actual physician usage of the machines, and increasing rates of usage are key to the company's long-term success.
Should results for the quarter be a little sluggish, I wouldn't necessarily panic. All hyper-growth companies, but especially med-tech growth companies, have their ups and downs while they build their respective businesses. What's more, a sales downturn into the summer months would fit the overall industry trend: Doctors tend to go on vacations and patients tend to postpone non-essential surgery in favor of enjoying the outdoors.
While I might get some nasty email from those Fools on the Rule Breakers team and/or other owners of Intuitive Surgical, I'm kinda hoping for a minor hiccup in the quarter and a sell-off in the stock. See, the last time that happened, I didn't have any spare cash sitting around, and I missed a good chance to swoop in and grab some temporarily cheaper shares. Fool me once, shame on you, but fool me twice, shame on me.
Intuitive Surgical isn't the only player in the health-care world:
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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).