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NuVasive poised for vigorous growth

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Former professional basketball star Bill Walton's back and leg pain was once so severe that he considered suicide. Nothing worked until he underwent spinal surgery with a procedure by NuVasive Inc. of San Diego.

"I had lost everything. But now I'm back in the game of life. There is hope," said Walton, who has been a paid spokesperson for NuVasive, in company publicity materials.

NuVasive is a medical device company that develops minimally disruptive surgical products and procedures for the spine.

The company is the No. 3 player in the U.S., and No. 4 globally in a very competitive, $8.7-billion market for spine-related problems, said Bill J. Plovanic, an analyst for Canaccord Genuity Inc.

NuVasive patients suffer from issues such as cervical disc degeneration, degenerative scoliosis and general back pain. To fix or relieve these problems, NuVasive has a lineup of 90 products and surgical solutions that the company describes as minimally invasive.

Walton opted for surgery in 2009, with doctors using the company's extreme lateral interbody fusion procedure. A small incision is needed to remove a diseased or damaged disc. An implant is then inserted and an internal brace is used to hold the damaged area as it heals.

"We have changed the way spine surgery is being performed through our innovations," said Alexis V. Lukianov, who has served as the company's chief executive since July 1999. After surgery, he said, patients "are often walking the same day of surgery, experiencing less blood loss, spending less time in the hospital."

NuVasive was founded in 1997, began commercial sales in 2001 and went public in 2004. It sold 6.5 million shares at an opening price of $11 a share.

The latest

The company's fourth-quarter revenue climbed 15.1% to $190.8 million compared with a year earlier. For the full year, revenue rose more than 10% to $685.2 million.

NuVasive posted fourth-quarter net income of $6 million compared with a loss of $2.8 million in the year-earlier quarter. For the full year, net income more than doubled to $7.9 million from $3.1 million in 2012.

That growth is coming at the expense of competitors, Lukianov said, and compared "to estimated global spine market growth of only 2.5%."

The company expects growth from the expanding middle-class populations in India and China.

Accomplishments

In 2013, the company launched 10 new products and received regulatory approval to sell its spine procedures in Japan, which the company said is the world's second-largest market for spinal procedures and devices.

This year, three of NuVasive's products made the "100 Minimally Invasive Orthopedic & Spine Devices to Know" list by Becker's ASC Review. The list highlights devices and instruments used in minimally invasive orthopedic procedures.

In November, NuVasive was named one of the fastest-growing companies on Deloitte's Technology Fast 500 list, a ranking of the 500 fastest-growing technology, media, telecommunications, life sciences and clean technology companies in North America.

Challenges

A U.S. District Court jury in Los Angeles decided this month that NuVasive should pay $30 million in damages to NeuroVision Medical Products of Ventura. It was the second court loss in a trademark infringement lawsuit that began in September 2009.

Although the damages were reduced by half, NuVasive said it would continue its court fight to use the trade name "NeuroVision" for a system that helps doctors locate and avoid nerves during surgery.

Analysts

Of 21 analysts surveyed by Thomson/First Call, six analysts rated the company a strong buy. Four analysts rated the company a buy and 11 analysts recommended holding the stock.

It was "a nice turnaround year for NuVasive," said analyst Plovanic. "Revenue growth accelerated starting in the second quarter of 2013 after a few difficult years."

ron.white@latimes.com

Twitter: @RonDWhite

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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