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St. Jude Buys Japanese Distributor Getz Brothers

Executive Summary

It's not unusual for medical device firms to buy overseas distributors who have been successful in selling their products. But in the case of St. Jude and Getz Brothers, the deal raises questions about both companies' future relationships with past partners.

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The Redemption of St. Jude Medical

In the early 1990s, St. Jude Medical was the market leader in its sole product area: mechanical heart valves, which placed it among the most profitable of device companies. Demographics, however, limited heart valves' future growth opportunities and St. Jude needed to diversify, moving into cardiac rhythm management (CRM), cardiology catheters, and vascular access devices, while also expanding in cardiac surgery. The diversification process went anything but smoothly, the company missed its numbers, and investors were quick to punish St. Jude for its integration missteps. In the past year, however, the company has become one of Wall Street's few device darlings, ranking number one in 2000 for returns among device stocks. The company's growth is largely the result of sticking to a strategy that has St. Jude well-positioned in CRM's traditional markets, while also poised to pursue huge new opportunities in atrial fibrillation and, to a lesser degree, congestive heart failure. And St. Jude has not forgotten its base: cardiac surgery, where the company has introduced new sutureless anastomotic technology for minimally invasive coronary bypass surgery.

St. Jude's New Customer

St. Jude thinks that a single specialist, the electrophysiologist, will make the purchasing decisions for arrhythmias, buying from the company with the most interesting technologies. St. Jude's recent deals are designed to make sure it's on the EP'sradar screen.

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