6 Medical Device Stocks to Treat the Bear Market Blues

Editors' pick: Originally published Monday, Feb. 8.

In this otherwise grim market, one industry that's poised to break through the shackles of the bears is the medical device industry, which was recently buoyed by news of the two-year suspension of the special tax on medical devices.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, this tax suspension could translate to savings to the tune of $5 billion for the medical device industry.

Taking a cue from this development, we've rounded up six top-quality stocks in the medical device industry that can take advantage of the tax relief and give your portfolio a boost. They're among a group of promising health services stocks that are poised to beat the market.

MDT Chart MDT data by YCharts

Medtronic plc (MDT)

The Ireland-based developer, manufacturer, and marketer of medical devices is one of the biggest beneficiaries of this amendment. Following the acquisition of medical device maker Covidien, Medtronic is now the largest player in the market, with a market cap of more than $105 billion.

Medtronic recently also expanded its renal care solutions portfolio by acquiring private company Bellco, which makes systems for the treatment of renal failure, among others.

In terms of financial performance, over the past four quarters, Medtronic has constantly beaten analyst estimates on earnings-per-share (EPS). Even in the most recent quarter, the company reported EPS of $1.03, versus estimates of $1 and recorded a 1% rise over the same quarter a year earlier. This rise came even though it footed costs associated with its integration with Covidien.

While the stock is flat on a year-to-date (YTD) basis, analysts with a 12-month price target on the stock expect it to clock in gains of close to 17.5%.

 

BDX Chart BDX data by YCharts

Becton, Dickinson and Co. (BDX)

With its $12.2 billion purchase of global medical technology company CareFusion, BDX now has a larger and diverse portfolio of products, including smart infusion pumps and automated medication dispensing cabinets.

The deal is proving fruitful for the company's medical unit, as sales in the most recent quarter showed expansion. Sales in the unit nearly tripled to $1.27 billion from $457 million a year earlier.

Going forward, BDX is poised to experience demand growth forCareFusion's products. Over half of the company's revenues are expected from less penetrated markets overseas.

The New Jersey-based company expects the negative currency impact on the robust overseas market revenue to settle in the second half of 2016 and is being proactive about dealing with these speedbumps. Not only is the company cutting manufacturing and sourcing costs, but it's also loading up on product features to command a premium in overseas markets.

At 14.43 times forward earnings, BDX is significantly cheaper than peer Baxter International at 21.18-times and its dividend yield at 1.95% is also higher than BAX's 1.23%.

SYK Chart SYK data by YCharts

Stryker Corp. (SYK)

Shares of Stryker, which operates in Orthopaedics, MedSurg, Neurotechnology, and Spine segments, are smartly up over 10% in the last month, and it looks like it is only going higher.

The prime reason for the expected rise is the fillip the company's product line will get through the acquisition of Sage Productsfrom private equity firm Madison Dearborn Partners for $2.78 billion in cash. Sage's offerings of disposable health and personal care products complement those of Stryker.

The deal includes an over $500 million future tax benefit which will add to earnings in 2016. Accordingly, the Michigan-based company has raised its full year adjusted EPS estimates by 5 cents to a range of $5.55 and $5.75.

Like Medtronic, Stryker too has beat analysts' EPS estimates for each of the last four quarters.

What is even more notable is that despite unimpressive operating cash flow in two of the last three quarters, at 0.3, its debt/equity ratio is half of the industry average of 0.6.

BAX Chart BAX data by YCharts

Baxter International Inc. (BAX)

In the most recent quarter, not only did medical equipment company Baxter International beat the Street's expectations on EPS by a huge margin, it also beat its own guidance. EPS came in at 43 cents, blowing the doors off analyst expectations of 32 cents and its own guidance of $0.30-$0.32. That performance puts BAX into a class of health services stars positioned to withstand the looming bear market.

BAX had a fantastic track record of beating revenue estimates every year since at least 2012. It also boasts a trailing 12-month return on equity of 21.2%, dwarfing the industry average of 10.6%.

Like other medical device companies, Baxter too faces currency headwinds. Thus, for the first quarter of 2016, after considering currency impact, the company expects sales to fall 2% year-over-year. However, for fiscal 2016 sales are seen rising 2%-to-3%

Finally, a beta of 0.82 is also comforting given the current uncertainty and volatility governing global markets.

MLAB Chart MLAB data by YCharts

Mesa Laboratories Inc. (MLAB)

This Colorado-based small cap company, which builds and provides test instruments used by health care providers, and manufacturing, pharmaceutical and food processing companies, is displaying organic and inorganic growth.

After a string of acquisitions over the last couple of years, Mesa expects further growth and is now setting up a bigger office to incorporate its existing staff and prepare for future expansion.

In terms of financial strength, for the third quarter of fiscal year 2016, the company reported revenues at $19.9 million, up 1% from the same period a year ago. Adjusted net income too rose 9% from the year ago quarter, helped by recent acquisitions.

And this is not a one-off performance -- Mesa's three-year average revenue growth of 21.7% has dwarfed the industry average of 6.3%.

According to Thomson Reuters, the company's earnings growth estimates for this year stand at 13.30% versus 2.60% for the S&P 500, and jump to 39.90% for next year versus 9.30% for the index.

HRC Chart HRC data by YCharts

Hill-Rom Holdings Inc. (HRC)

Another medical technology company that has benefited from recent acquisitions is Hill-Rom Holdings.

Helped by better than expected revenue performance of recently acquired Welch Allyn and operating margins that expanded 430 basis points to 13.2%, the company reported EPS for the first quarter of fiscal year 2016 at 68 cents, up 38.8% from the same period a year ago and beating analyst estimates of 65 cents.

Better performance was also recorded in North America, which helped offset the declines in the International segment, pressured by challenges in the Latin America and the Middle East market.

While Hill-Rom has maintained its revenue guidance for the year, it has expanded its adjusted EPS guidance range to $3.24-to-$3.30 from $3.08-to-$3.14.

Analysts too expect significant upside to the stock. Those with 12-month median estimates for Hill-Rom have a price target of $59, representing a 28.5% upside from current levels.

At a P/E of 12.38 times forward earnings, Hill-Rom is also slightly cheaper than Stryker at 15.81-times.

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This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.

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