NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- No stock keeps hitting new 52-week highs without taking a bit of a pause. The past several weeks haven't seen many new 52-week highs, but the company I'm spotlighting has had more than one.In the past I've referred to Medtronic ( MDT) as the "Rodney Dangerfield" of medical products companies. For a long period its stock and the value of the company couldn't get any respect. That moniker has changed lately, but this is a company that knows how to be patient about its reputation and its business results. Founded in 1949, Medtronic has grown to become the world's largest independent medical technology company. It's self-stated "mission" is to "...alleviate pain, restore health and extend life," and that's a mission to which everyone can relate. In fact its mission hasn't changed since its co-founder, Earl Bakken, wrote it in 1960: "To contribute to human welfare by application of biomedical engineering in the research, design, manufacture, and sale of instruments or appliances that alleviate pain, restore health and extend life." MDT claims that more than seven million lives are enhanced every year by a Medtronic product or therapy, or one every four seconds. The Minneapolis company operates in more than 120 countries, employs 45,000 people (including 9,000 scientists) and has pursued research and innovation that's led to more than 23,000 patents. eye-pleasing Web site. You owe it to yourself to browse through the Web site, especially its investor relations section.
The stock's price is moving up to levels we haven't seen since before the Great Recession and the Financial Fiasco that began in late 2008. The stock price has been propelled of late by the improving trailing 12-month (TTM) operating and profit margins. As of April 26, MDT had a 29% operating margin and a 21% profit margin (TTM). Its operating cash flow of $4.88 billion and its net income available to common (TTM) of $3.47 billion allowed for a dividend per share of $1.04. This is a yield to price currently of around 2% and represents a payout ratio of only 31%. Analysts' consensus estimate for quarterly earnings results call for a modest increase in EPS of only 3.5% and an even smaller 2.7% improvement in revenue and sales growth. If that's the case, why are the shares doing so well? One reason is the stock, even at $53 a share, is selling at a forward (one-year) PE ratio of around 12. As a comparison, competitor Johnson & Johnson's ( JNJ) forward PE is almost 15. One advantage JNJ shareholders have is a more generous dividend yield currently around 3.11%. details of the news release and its findings are worth careful consideration. The Medtronic group president responsible for the Infuse unit, Chris O'Connell, put a positive spin on the outcome of the two independent studies.