This story has been corrected to reflect the earlier misidentification of an individual. We regret this errorEditor's Note: This article was originally published at 6 a.m. EDT on Real Money on Sept. 7, as part of the NFL Kickoff Open House. Sign up for a free trial of Real Money. I'm working on a host of names that aren't yet ready for prime time, so let's revisit several oldies but (still!) goodies.
Can Intuitive Surgical Regain Its Cutting Edge?
Intuitive Surgical's ( ISRG) shares have lost roughly one-quarter of their value after tumbling on surprisingly bad financial results last July. Sales growth tumbled to 7.8%, from 23.4% the previous quarter and 25.7% a year earlier. Most of the blame went to the Da Vinci surgical robot which, for whatever reason, didn't sell anywhere near as well as expected. Analyst after analyst, caught flat-footed, immediately lowered estimates and/or downgraded their ratings. One notable exception was Suraj Kalia of Northland Securities, who upgraded Intuitive to Market Perform. But he gets a pass. He had, after all, been the lone bear on the stock, and the quarter was worse than even he had expected. Given this market, where the heavily shorted and clobbered stocks often miraculously become next week's winners, Kalia wasn't taking any chances. "The stock is down almost $180 (35%) from the time we initiated," he wrote, "hence we believe it is prudent to move to the sidelines for the time being." He quickly added, "That does not mean our long-term concerns are alleviated by any stretch." William Blair's Ben Andrew also veered from the pack. But, unlike Kalia, he reiterated his Outperform rating in a note that tried to highlight what went right. Now the most bullish of all analysts, Andrew is more enthusiastic than ever. After he had time to do further research, including an analysis of robot sales and the utilization rate of the robot at hospitals -- and after a meeting with CEO Gary Guthart -- Andrew said in a report Monday that he now believes there may be upside to his own expectations. As it turns out, his report was issued the same day that First Analysis analyst Greg Chodaczek downgraded Intuitive to Underweight, saying just the opposite. Chodaczek said that he believes "consensus estimates remain overly optimistic" and that he sees "more downside than upside risk to our own below-consensus estimates." Chodaczek adds that he expects "prolonged weakness in the stock as we expect the valuation gradually to reflect a reduced and less-certain growth outlook."