Boston Scientific (NYSE: BSX) was down 4% yesterday on mixed earnings news. The company released decent fourth-quarter numbers, but its 2011 adjusted earnings guidance was lower than the total for 2010. CEO Ray Elliott characterized the coming year as "challenging."

The coming year? Try two-thirds of a decade. In 2004, the company made $1.24 per share. This year, the company will be lucky to make half that; adjusted earnings guidance calls for $0.50 to $0.60 per share. Since its heyday, Boston Scientific's shares have fallen some 85%.

So much for the high hopes that Elliott could turn things around quickly.

Not that it's Elliott's fault. Boston Scientific operates in a tough business segment filled with competition. At its height, Boston Scientific was in a two-company race with Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) to build the best drug-eluting stent. Since then, both Abbott Labs (NYSE: ABT) and Medtronic (NYSE: MDT) have launched competing stents cutting into its lead.

The acquisition of Guidant helped the company diversify into defibrillator and pacemakers, but it came at a high cost, and the return on the investment has been less than stellar.

The weak economy hasn't helped. Part of the less-than-stellar guidance stemmed from doctors performing fewer procedures. Until the jobs come back and people get their health insurance back, patients will put off medical care that might otherwise ring up sales for Boston Scientific.

Normally, I'd say that's a buying opportunity. As long as you're willing to think long-term, you can take advantage of the near-term pessimism to make a killing. Patients won't be able to wait forever.

But Boston Scientific hasn't shown that it's able to bounce back. Investors were thinking the same thing in 2006, after it was halved from above $40 to $20 per share, only to see it drop to under $10. I'd suggest throwing Boston Scientific on your show-me list and wait for an actual turnaround before investing.

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