Oftentimes, quarterly reports are rather dry affairs, particularly for larger companies. Thanks to orthopedic company Zimmer
Zimmer gave a seemingly clear and frank account of what has spurred the recent government investigation into major orthopedic companies that has garnered so much attention. According to the company, a hospital representative sent an email to several orthopedics companies, Zimmer included, to solicit bids for implant prices. In response, a competitor sent a reply to the other companies suggesting a uniform pricing strategy -- collusion or price-fixing, in other words.
Assuming that this is all there is, the outcome of the investigation could be less expansive than originally feared. If it's just the one company that did wrong, that company is in for some trouble. Then again, if it seems like other companies were receptive to the idea, there could still be some industrywide fallout. What's more, it's still entirely possible that the government and big hospitals like HCA
As for the actual performance at Zimmer, it's not too bad. Revenue was up just 4% and reported operating income was up only a bit more than 2%, but adjusted earnings per share were nevertheless up 11%. While the company is lagging Stryker in knee growth, it's doing relatively better in hips.
I really don't believe that we're at the cusp of some major change in the orthopedics industry -- even if pricing transparency comes, I'm sure these companies will figure out ways to maintain their robust margins. In the specific case of Zimmer, I'm impressed with its marketing efforts and its ability to create the impression that it offers unique technologies. For instance, the female-specific knee implant isn't quite as special as it would have you think.
Though I'm still partial to Stryker as a company, Zimmer looks meaningfully cheaper even with more modest assumptions. Recall, though, that Stryker has a sizable non-ortho equipment business, whereas Zimmer is more of a pure play and therefore prone to be more sensitive to any negative long-term changes in the ortho market.
For more medical Foolishness:
- Stryker and the Terror of the Unknown
- Feds Once Again Knocking on Ortho Doors
- Guidance Brings Zimmer to Its Knees
Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).