The Medical Instruments industry has witnessed a significant transformation in the nature of business lately, leading to increased investment in R&D for the development of cutting-edge technologies. The dynamic nature of the healthcare crisis over the past two and a half years has further altered the industry landscape, putting robotic and remote medical services in the limelight. Despite the reopening of the economy, deteriorating international trade, with global inflationary pressure leading to an extremely tough situation related to raw material and labor cost as well as freight charges, has put the industry in a tight spot again. Further, industry watchers are still unable to gauge the magnitude of economic revival due to the emergence of new COVID strains in selective parts of the world from time to time.
The just-reported fourth-quarter result of a number of medical instrument companies confirmed a gradual rebound in their base businesses through the latter half of 2022. However, the industry-wide trend of staffing shortages and supply chain-related hazards are denting growth. Meanwhile, industry players like Edwards Lifesciences EW, IDEXX Laboratories IDXX and Hologic, Inc. HOLX have adapted well to changing consumer preferences and are still witnessing an uptrend in their stock prices.
The Zacks Medical – Instruments industry is highly fragmented, with participants engaged in research and development (R&D) in therapeutic areas. This FDA-regulated industry comprises an endless number of products, starting from transcatheter valves to orthopedic products to imaging equipment and robotics. Prior to the pandemic, the Medical Instruments space was advancing well in terms of R&D. Among the recent path-breaking inventions, bone growth stimulators, 3D mapping of CT scans, wireless brain sensors and human-brain pacemakers are worth mentioning. During the COVID-hit years, many non-COVID and non-emergency-line innovations were stuck or delayed. However, with the severity of the pandemic easing, the industry players are again more focused on strengthening their pipeline.
3 Trends Shaping the Future of the Medical Instruments Industry
Business Trend Disruption: Considering the ongoing macro-economic situation, the IMF came up with its January 2023 World Economic Outlook Update. The update noted that global growth might slightly slow down from 3.4% in 2022, to 2.9% in 2023, then again rebound to 3.1% in 2024. IMF specifically addressed the ongoing tightening financial conditions in most regions, staffing shortages, Russia’s continued aggression, all of which have been weighing heavily on the medical instrument outlook despite the decline in COVID-19 severity. Per IMF, through 2023, inflation could remain stubbornly high, with continued labor market tightness and growing wage pressures requiring tighter monetary policies. On a brighter note, strengthening household balance sheets and wage growth are driving private demand. Overall, the Medical Instruments industry players are expected to collectively report a year-over-year decline in their revenues due to logistical challenges and increasing unit cost. This might get offset by an increase in essential and non-essential product demand by private households.
M&A Trend Continues: The medical instruments space has been benefiting from the ongoing merger and acquisition (M&A) trend. In fact, various reports suggest that M&A has been the key catalyst in the U.S. MedTech space of late. It is a known fact that smaller and mid-sized industry players attempt to compete with the big shots through consolidation. The big players attempt to enter new markets through a niche product. Among the significant deals of recent times, in December 2022, Johnson & Johnson completed the $16.6-billion mammoth acquisition of Abiomed. In February 2023, Abbott announced its plans to acquire Cardiovascular Systems, a medical device company with advanced atherectomy system used in treating peripheral and coronary artery disease. The same month, Globus Medical announced its plans to acquire the San-Diego based spine technology firm, NuVasive Inc., in an all-stock deal valued at around $3.1 billion.
Meanwhile, a MedTech Dive report of January 2023 revealed that MedTech players are expected to demonstrate a slow start to 2023 in terms on M&A. Yet, the experts say that despite higher interest rates and a volatile stock market, there are signs that strategic M&As are poised to rebound.
Digital Revolution: With an increase in the adoption of digital platforms within the medical device space, robotic surgeries, big-data analytics, bioprinting, 3D printing, electronic health records (EHR), predictive analytics, real-time alerting and revenue cycle management services are gaining prominence in the United States. A June 2019 Health care News report suggested that this market, valued at $123 billion in 2018, has been witnessing a CAGR of 25%. Various other reports suggest that companies that adopted AI witnessed a 50% reduction in treatment costs. Telemedicine stocks received an impressive response when, in 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asked healthcare service communities to broaden the use of telemedicine.
Zacks Industry Rank Indicates Good Prospects
The Zacks Medical Instruments industry’s Zacks Industry Rank, which is basically the average of the Zacks Rank of all the member stocks, indicates encouraging near-term prospects. The industry, housed within the broader Zacks Medical sector, currently carries a Zacks Industry Rank #85, which places it in the top 34% of more than 250 Zacks industries. Our research shows that the top 50% of the Zacks-ranked industries outperforms the bottom 50% by a factor of more than 2 to 1.
We will present a few stocks that have the potential to outperform the market based on a strong earnings outlook. But it’s worth taking a look at the industry’s shareholder returns and current valuation first.
Industry Underperforms S&P 500, Sector
The industry has underperformed the Zacks S&P 500 composite and its sector in the past year.
The industry has declined 9.5% compared with the S&P 500’s 6.9% fall in a year’s time. The broader sector has declined 9.3% in the said time frame.
One Year Price Performance
Industry’s Current Valuation
On the basis of the forward 12-month price-to-earnings (P/E), which is commonly used for valuing medical stocks, the industry is currently trading at 33.06X compared with the broader industry’s 22.40X and the S&P 500’s 18.01X.
Over the past five years, the industry has traded as high as 45.08X, as low as 26.13X and at the median of 32.87X, as the charts show below.
Price-to-Earnings Forward Twelve Months (F12M)
Price-to-Earnings Forward Twelve Months (F12M)
3 Stocks to Buy Right Now
Hologic: Headquartered in Bedford, MA, Hologic develops, manufactures, and supplies diagnostics, medical imaging systems and surgical products, which cater to the healthcare needs of women. Hologic has been making impressive progress in its Breast Health arm in recent times. The company is currently focusing on expanding its strategy to diversify business across the patient continuum of care. The company’s GYN Surgical business too has transformed to the most profitable division of Hologic on a percentage basis banking on new leadership, strong strategic execution of new commercial models and new product launches.
The consensus estimate for this Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) company’s 2024 sales is pegged at $4.12 billion, indicating a 3.7% rise year over year.
The consensus mark for Hologic’s 2024 EPS is pegged at $3.99, indicating an increase of 7.6% from the year-ago period.
You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.
Price and Consensus: HOLX
Edwards Lifesciences: Headquartered in Irvine, CA, Edwards Lifesciences deals in products and technologies aimed at treating advanced cardiovascular diseases, especially structural heart disease in critically ill patients. Edwards Lifesciences expects to maintain its leadership position in the global Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement market through an increased focus on expanding patient access by actively leveraging current valve platforms for additional indications. This includes developing next-generation valve platforms, and maintaining trusted relationships with clinicians, payers and regulators. Edwards Lifesciences also remain committed to aggressively investing in structural heart disease and critical care technologies.
The Zacks Consensus Estimate for Edwards Lifesciences’ 2023 sales is pegged at $5.86 billion, indicating an 8.8% rise year over year. The same for Edwards Lifesciences’ adjusted earnings is pegged at $2.52 per share, an expected growth of 1.6% from 2022. Edwards Lifesciences carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).
Price and Consensus: EW
IDEXX: Headquartered in Delaware, NJ, IDEXX is a developer, manufacturer and distributor of products and services primarily for the companion animal veterinary, livestock and poultry, water testing and dairy markets. The company is deriving strong top-line growth driven by continued benefits from the expansion of IDEXX’s global premium instrument installed base. CAG Diagnostics’ organic recurring revenue growth reflects solid gains across IDEXX’s major modalities globally, supported by growth in clinical service demand and expanded utilization of diagnostic products and services.
The consensus estimate for this Zacks Rank #2 company’s 2023 sales is pegged at $3.64 billion, indicating an 8% rise year over year. The same for IDEXX’s 2023 earnings is pegged at $9.51, an expected 18.4% growth from the year-ago period.
Price and Consensus: IDXX
Want the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. Click to get this free report