How much will the medical technology (med-tech) industry grow in the coming years? According to market research firm Evaluate, med-tech is on track to grow by 5.1% annually by 2022. That might not sound overly impressive, but that rate only narrowly trails the projected 5.2% annual growth of the global prescription-drug market.
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And that growth projection from Evaluate is only the average for the med-tech industry. Several med-tech stocks are poised for much faster growth, with Edwards Lifesciences (NYSE: EW), General Electric (NYSE: GE), and Intuitive Surgical (NASDAQ: ISRG) among the large-cap stocks leading the way. Here's why these are three top med-tech stocks you can buy right now.
Edwards Lifesciences is a world leader in developing artificial heart valves and surgical monitoring technology. The company reported revenue last year of nearly $3 billion. Edwards's current market cap stands close to $24 billion.
So far in 2017, Edwards Lifesciences stock is up nearly 20%. Shares soared in April, after Edwards posted impressive sales and earnings growth in the first quarter. The company followed up in the second quarter with more strong results.
Wall Street analysts think that Edwards will grow earnings by more than 16% annually on average over the next five years. That estimate seems attainable, in my view. Edwards projects that the trans-catheter aortic valve replacement market will expand by more than $5 billion over the next four years. The opportunities are even greater beyond that point as technological advances enable treatment of patients with less severe conditions.
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With more than 95% of Edwards's sales coming from products that are No. 1 globally in their respective categories, the company is in an excellent position to benefit from the anticipated growth. Edwards Lifesciences faces competition, particularly from industry leader Medtronic. However, the company's continual innovation in treating structural heart disease make this a great med-tech stock investors can buy now.
General Electric isn't only a med-tech company, of course. It's a giant in lighting, power systems, renewable energy, oil and gas, and more. However, GE is also one of the top 10 largest med-tech companies, according to Evaluate, with 2016 global med-tech sales of $9.8 billion. And with a market cap of over $210 billion, GE is one of the biggest companies in the world.
However, GE's size hasn't helped it make investors happy this year. Both revenue and earnings have fallen for the giant conglomerate. The stock is down more than 20% year to date, and changes are in the air, as GE now has a new person at the top, John Flannery, who replaced longtime CEO Jeffrey Immelt.
So why is GE a top med-tech stock to buy? For one thing, the dismal stock performance now makes GE a bargain, with shares trading at less than 15 times expected earnings. There's also GE's nice dividend, which currently yields close to 4%. Perhaps most important, though, is that the company should bounce back -- with its med-tech business a major part of the rebound.
New CEO John Flannery's previous position was heading up GE Healthcare. Flannery has stated in the past that he planned to "double down on life sciences." Wall Street thinks GE can grow earnings by more than 9% annually in the coming years. Med-tech -- and healthcare in general -- should be an important factor indelivering that anticipated growth. If Flannery delivers on his promise regarding life sciences, I suspect that the GE of the future will be more successful than the GE of today.
Intuitive Surgical is a pioneer in developing robotic surgical systems. Its da Vinci system was used to perform over 750,000 surgical procedures last year. As a result of da Vinci's growth, Intuitive Surgical recorded revenue totaling $2.7 billion in 2016 and now claims a market cap of $13.5 billion.
This year is turning out to be one of the best ever for the company. Intuitive Surgical stock is up more than 70% year to date and is trading at an all-time high. Pretty much everything is going right for the company, with strong revenue and earnings growth in the first half of the year.
What's really nice about Intuitive Surgical is its business model. The company generates more than 70% of total revenue from recurring sources, particularly sales of instruments and accessories for the da Vinci system. That recurring revenue stream gives Intuitive Surgical the financial stability investors love.
Another thing to really like about this stock is its future growth potential. Intuitive Surgical should see increasingly more surgeries performed for the current top procedures for which da Vinci is used, including hysterectomies and prostatectomies. The company continues to innovate and look for additional procedures for its robotic surgical systems. In addition, Intuitive Surgical has significant opportunities for growth internationally. Although priced at a premium, Intuitive Surgical stock should continue to be one of the best med-tech plays for years to come.
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Keith Speights has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Intuitive Surgical. The Motley Fool owns shares of Medtronic. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.