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St. Jude Lowers Sales View Amid Weakened Defibrillator Market

By Jon Kamp Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES St. Jude Medical Inc. (STJ) lowered its full-year sales outlook Wednesday amid reduced expectations for the heart-rhythm device market, which has been pressured by a weak economy, an unfavorable medical study and a U.S. government investigation. The St. Paul, Minn., company also raised its full-year sales forecast for some other products. St. Jude now believes the global market for heart-rhythm devices--which includes pacemakers and defibrillators--will contract about 2% this year, Chief Executive Daniel Starks said on an earnings call with analysts. This translates to assumptions for an $11.4 billion global market this year, $500 million less than St. Jude assumed on its last earnings call in April. Based on St. Jude's share of the market, where it competes with Medtronic Inc. (MDT) and Boston Scientific Corp. (BSX), this reduced outlook translates into $130 million to $135 million less heart-rhythm sales for St. Jude, Starks said. Overall, the company now forecasts 2011 sales of $5.61 billion to $5.73 billion, down from a raised forecast in April for sales of $5.69 billion to $5.85 billion. While St. Jude lowered its outlook for heart-rhythm devices, its biggest product franchise, it also raised sales expectations for atrial fibrillation and cardiovascular products, which follows increases for both product lines in April. The company reported adjusted per-share earnings Wednesday that were one cent above Wall Street's average expectations, according to a survey by Thomson Reuters, but it lowered its full-year earnings guidance by three cents. In addition to reporting new weakness in heart-rhythm devices--although analysts widely expected a slowdown there--St. Jude hasn't gotten a key new product approved as quickly as hoped. The company is now targeting early fourth-quarter Food and Drug Administration approval for heart-failure defibrillator systems featuring its new "quadripolar" lead, or cable that connects the devices to the heart. The company had previously expected mid-year approval. As for heart-rhythm market's malaise, Starks said the U.S. market "fell into a pothole during the second quarter." He cited a handful of factors including economic weakness. Also, more St. Jude customers were contacted by the U.S. Department of Justice in the second quarter than in prior periods regarding an ongoing investigation into reimbursement submissions for defibrillators, Starks said. St. Jude shares recently traded down 1% to $46.34 early Wednesday. Shares of Boston Scientific slipped 1% to $7.07 while Medtronic shares were 8% lower at $36.71. -By Jon Kamp, Dow Jones Newswires; 617-654-6728;

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