St. Jude Medical vows to meet or beat 2013 earnings forecast

Fri Feb 1, 2013 2:30pm EST

Feb 1 (Reuters) - St. Jude Medical Inc, frustrated by regulatory and product issues last year, vowed that it would meet or exceed its 2013 earnings forecast, even though it does not expect much of a recovery in the medical technology market.

The medical device maker disappointed investors last year with a performance undermined by weak demand for its products and concerns about problems with one of its leads, the wires used with implantable defibrillators.

Chief Executive Dan Starks acknowledged that St. Jude was too aggressive in its outlook for 2012 and characterized this year's outlook as "conservative." Last month it forecast 2013 earnings of $3.68 to $3.73 per share, which was above Wall Street estimates.

Starks said the 2013 outlook assumes continued pressure on its lead business and assumes that markets for its medical devices will not recover this year.

Starks, speaking to analysts at the company's annual investor meeting in New York, said management is determined to meet its earnings forecast for this year.

"In our minds, we fully expect ... to meet or exceed this (earnings per share) guidance. This is not what we're worried about this year," he told the meeting, which was webcast.

"The challenge for us is to accelerate sales growth," he added.

A restructuring begun in 2011 and still under way - involving job cuts, moving manufacturing facilities and consolidating business units - will generate $150 million of savings between 2011 and 2013, he said.

The restructuring and other initiatives will boost earnings by 37 cents per share this year, and a $1.3 billion share buyback program will add 36 cents, he said.

These benefits will offset the impact of a new medical device tax, which is estimated at $60 million for 2013, Starks said.

The company also expects its business to get a big boost from more than 20 new product launches slated for 2013.

St. Jude declined to provide an outlook for 2014.

The company's shares were up 1.6 percent to $41.34 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

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