Observers watch Intuitive Surgical closely for Q3 clues

We're about to find out soon whether Intuitive Surgical's ($ISRG) earnings dipped in its fiscal 2012 third quarter as the company predicted, and, if so, by how much. The maker of da Vinci surgical robots will release its results on Oct. 16, and The Motley Fool attempts to predict the outcome, noting that European sales are the most likely element that could bring the company's numbers down.

As the article notes, Intuitive is already taking a hit in Europe as the number of prostatectomy procedures declined over the first half of 2012, thanks to governmental austerity measures and economic uncertainty--something the company wasn't fully prepared for. This would matter because the region generated most of Intuitive's previous growth in the surgical category.

And while The Motley Fool credits Intuitive with keeping costs under control, the analysis also raises a red flag over the company's stock options granted so far this year and higher research and development expenses. But the article explains that Intuitive could surprise investors, after lowering expectations, with positive news about expansion of da Vinci-related procedures. The company has not disclosed its volume of newer procedures with da Vinci, but has steadily focused on expanding the kinds of procedures for which da Vinci is approved.

Either way, investors will be highly sensitive to the outcome. Intuitive booked $537 million in revenue during its 2012 second quarter--up 26% over the same period the year before. But the company's stock plunged anyway because the company acknowledged some softness in its prostatectomy procedures.

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