* Profit ex-items of $1.14/shr tops estimates by 2 cts
* Net earnings decrease 32.7 pct on charges for hip recall
* Continues to see 2013 earnings of $4.25 to $4.40 a share
* Shares unchanged in after-hours trade
Jan 23 U.S. orthopedic implant maker Stryker Corp on Wednesday reported fourth-quarter earnings excluding charges that exceeded analyst estimates as sales of its hip, knee and spine products improved.
Overall sales rose 5.5 percent in the quarter from a year ago, rebounding from the third-quarter's sluggish 1 percent growth rate that resulted from soft pricing, the company said. Demand for orthopedic devices has slumped in the weak economy as patients deferred procedures due to lack of insurance or higher out-of-pocket expenses.
Stryker executives said they were encouraged by sales momentum for hip and knee products going into 2013.
"At the very least, the market is stable to maybe modestly improved in the fourth quarter," Stryker Vice President Katherine Owen said on a conference call with analysts.
Fourth-quarter earnings excluding charges rose 11.8 percent from a year ago to $436 million, or $1.14 a share.
Analysts had expected $1.12 a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Including costs for a previously disclosed recall of hip products, profit fell almost one-third to $270 million, or 71 cents a share, from $401 million, or $1.05 a share, the year before.
Net sales in the quarter rose 5.5 percent to $2.3 billion. Hip sales rose 3.6 percent, knee sales increased 5.4 percent, trauma sales climbed 10.2 percent, neurotechnology sales surged 12.7 percent, spine sales gained 6.4 percent, and medical and surgical equipment sales gained 2.4 percent.
The Kalamazoo, Michigan-based company said it continues to expect full-year 2013 earnings of $4.25 to $4.40 per share.
Stryker shares were unchanged after hours from Wednesday's close of $61.87 on the New York Stock Exchange.