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ICD market could take longer to rebound: analysts
Last Updated: 2006-07-14 11:00:38 -0400                                 By *****

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Demand for implantable heart defibrillators could slow further before improving, medical technology analysts said, prompting several this week to scale back their financial outlooks for makers of the devices.
Boston Scientific Corp.'s recall in late June of defibrillators and pacemakers made by its Guidant unit may have caused more disruption in the market than previously thought, Goldman Sachs analyst Lawrence Keusch said on Thursday.

Guidant recalled more than 100,000 devices last year. Last month, when Boston Scientific announced the latest recall, affecting about 50,000 devices, it said it could take 18 to 24 months to fix systemic problems in the business and said more recalls were likely. "We now believe that it is prudent to assume that market growth acceleration could be more tempered," Keusch, who maintained "buy" ratings on Boston Scientific and rival Medtronic Inc., wrote in a note to clients.

St. Jude Medical Inc. also makes implantable cardioverter defibrillators, which shock racing hearts back to normal rhythm. Keusch lowered his outlook for second-quarter growth in the defibrillator market to 1 percent from 3 percent and trimmed his estimates for full-year earnings for the three companies, noting physicians and patients continue to weigh concerns about device reliability.

Prudential Financial analyst Lawrence Biegelsen lowered his price target for St. Jude shares to $31, citing a reduced growth forecast for the ICD market. He kept a "neutral" rating on the stock.
JP Morgan analyst Mike Weinstein, who forecasts ICD market growth of 3 percent in the second quarter, expects St. Jude to take market share due to new product launches, sales force expansion and Guidant's continued troubles.

But he said overall industry demand remains sluggish."Our checks thus far uncovered few signs of a market recovery, which we continue to believe may take several quarters to play out," Weinstein wrote.
BMO Capital Markets analyst Joanne Wuensch lowered her earnings forecasts and price target for Boston Scientific shares, saying the latest recall makes an ICD market recovery less likely in the second half of the year. Shares of Boston Scientific, which closed near four-year lows Thursday at $15.98, are down more than 12 percent since the June 26 recall. St. Jude has fallen less than 1 percent in that time, to $32.73. Medtronic is off 2 percent, at $47.50.

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