While some analysts see a buying opportunity after Zimmer Biomet's (ZBH) - Get Report latest quarterly results, it is the company's efforts to return to growth that could signal merger-and-acquisition opportunities.
The medical-device company is well on track to show a return to growth this year, say Jefferies analysts in a research note Friday. Overall organic revenue growth was about 2.5%, better than their estimate of 1.7%. The analysts also noted that the company's guidance for the second half of the year implies continued growth.
Zimmer Biomet reported second-quarter adjusted earnings of $2.02 per share Thursday that exceeded Wall Street's expectations. Revenue of $1.93 billion for the period also surpassed analysts' forecasts of $1.9 billion. But the key takeaway was the success integration of Biomet as the company has re-established top-line momentum. The stock was up during the trading session Friday, at around $130.85.
"We are now poised to move forward with our plans, which include the acceleration of our commercial and innovation strategic priorities," said CEO David Dvorak during a conference call with analysts, "These priorities are designed to further enhance and sustain our growth well into the future."
Analysts with Oppenheimer echoed those sentiments.
"ZBH's acquisition of Biomet provide solid synergy opportunities on both the top and bottom line," the Oppenheimer analyst team said. "On easier comps and the benefits of cross-selling, we look for ZBH sales growth to accelerate closer to peer average, driving multiple expansion."
And, Zimmer Biomet has already started making moves within the health care sector to maintain the momentum. Earlier this summer, the company acquired LDR Holding in a $1 billion deal -- which represented a 64% premium. Shortly after, Zimmer announced a deal for France's Medtech -- one that The Deal's Sarah Pringle said could also pressure Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) - Get Report to look for opportunities in the robotic-surgery space. But it was the big, billion-dollar deal that signaled the potential for merger-and-acquisition opportunities among spinal-device companies.
Pringle pointed to several spine companies, such as NuVasive (NUVA) - Get Report , Orthofix International NV (OFIX) - Get Report and Xtant Medical Holdings, as prospective targets or buyers following the Zimmer-LDR deal. While all could be likely takeover targets, NuVasive is one of the several spine companies that represent the next sizable player following Zimmer. But the company could also consolidate, "as it has been vocal about its intentions to bulk up through M&A," according to The Deal.
Furthermore, NuVasive is led by Greg Lucier, who led Life Technologies before it was acquired by Thermo Fisher ScientificTMO in 2014 for $13.6 billion, plus the assumption of $1.5 billion debt. (Thermo Fisher is a holding in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS portfolio). According to Lucier's LinkedIn page, he helped "shepherd the deal through global regulatory approval" before stepping down as CEO. He had taken Invitrogen, the predecessor company of Life Technologies, and turned it into Life Technologies, "an international behemoth with more than 12,000 employees, 5,000 patents, 50,000 products, and sales in 180 countries," according to a Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News report.
But NuVasive has been acting more like a buyer than a seller this year. In January the company announced that it would pay up to $410 million for Ellipse Technologies, a maker of noninvasive magnetically adjustable implant systems. Then in June, it agreed to pay $98 million for patient monitoring company Biotronic NeuroNetwork.
So, for now, the two companies look to keep growing on their own -- but NuVasive has experienced leadership that could lead it through a merger or acquisition if approached, perhaps by Zimmer Biomet.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published at 4:20 p.m. EDT on Real Money on July 29.