NuVasive CEO Lukianov looks back, ahead

NuVasive logo

Medical device company NuVasive (NSDQ:NUVA) got a big boost this morning after releasing preliminary results for 2012, with a jocular chairman & CEO Alex Lukianov sharing some of the highlights with an audience at the J.P. Morgan healthcare conference in San Francisco.

NuVasive beat its own estimates for 2012 with full-year revenues of about $619 million, compared to previous guidance of $601-$606 million for the year.

That represents a 15% spike in growth over 2011 for NuVasive, which Lukianov variously referred to as a "market-maker," a "share-taker" and a "destructive force."

Wall Street responded with a 12.3% spike for NUVA shares, which were trading at $17.70 as of about 1 p.m. today.

Lukianov joked about the larger headwinds facing NuVasive, including push-back from insurers who aren’t fully sold on minimally invasive spinal surgery procedures.

"If you consider the state of spine, things could be worse," he said. "I mean, we could have a socialist president in charge … well, actually, never mind."

NuVasive has taken large steps to advance its position in the spinal surgery market, which Lukianov characterized as one with significant "share-shifting" and portfolio cannibalization among the segment’s top players.

Going forward, the company’s strategy involves paring down its inventory by combining its offerings into fewer platforms.

"We’re integrating systems, we’re putting together streamlined approaches," Lukianov said. "When you see all of those inventory SKUs that are out there, we’re in the process of really trying to cut down the number of SKUs and put forward fewer systems that actually do more. This is a pretty big advance for us."

The company is also looking to make larger moves in international markets, which comprise about 10% of NuVasive’s revenues. Lukianov hopes to raise that to 20%.

"What’s happening with international is we’ve been investing heavily in it, including Japan, for the last few years and it will now start to contribute to profitability," he said.

NuVasive projected that 2013 sales will reach about $655 million, representing growth of about 5.8%.

"You could, obviously, wonder why our guidance isn’t even higher than that, and that is simply because we’re in a challenged marketplace and we’re not going to get ahead of ourselves," Lukianov said today. "We think 6% growth in a market that’s been flat to slightly up is excellent, and that’s what we’re focused on."

He told conference attendees that he envisions NuVasive as a "billion-dollar startup," aiming to reach a billion in sales "in a certain way," which he characterized as "nimble, fast and responsive."

"We’re a share-taker in terms of our ability to growth the company as we have, we’ve been a very destructive force when it comes to new products," he said.

Although Lukianov noted the challenges facing the company and the global spinal devices business, he remained enthusiastic about the company’s progress and potential.

"We’ve been working in a market that is, to say the least, challenged," he said. "It does appear to be stabilizing – it seems to be flattening out of the last several quarters."

"As we’re digging out, there’s definitely light ahead," he added.

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