Greenberg: Hard Reset for Intuitive Surgical

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The hard reset at Intuitive Surgical (ISRG) continues, with the company missing on the topline when it reported financial results post-market close Thursday.

Unlike the prior quarter, when there was a warning that earnings would miss, this time there was none.

And this report follows multiple months of scrutiny in the legal and medical communities, with concerns about safety and the overzealous marketing of Intuitive's da Vinci surgical robot. 

In a note to clients today, Northland Capital's Suraj Kalia, a longtime Intuitive bear, put it bluntly: "It seems that there is a market correction in progress for the over-proliferation of robotic surgery."

He added, "The company is doing whatever it can to stem the bleeding. However, macro-level headwinds are significant and expectations need to be recalibrated, in our view."

While your view of the bottom line depends on the tax impact, the story is in revenue, which didn't just fall off the wagon but a cliff -- sliding 7.2% after the prior quarter's 7.8% rise, which itself was a big tumble from the prior quarter's 23.5% gain.

Drilling down further, and perhaps most disconcerting was a big disappointment in system sales. System sales are supposed to drive high-margin instrument sales, and for the rest of the year the company lowered the top-end of guidance for system sales. Revenue per procedures also fell, prompting Kalia to say that he believes "there is at least 50% unused capacity in da Vinci's in the United States."

Among the concerns, which I included in my documentary last April, "The da Vinci Debate", was that Intuitive was overly aggressive in the way it marketed its machines to hospitals and even patients.

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