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Ahead of the Bell: Analyst raises St. Jude rating

St. Jude Medical is poised to grow sales steadily and improve its profitability over the next few years, thanks in part to the medical device maker's pipeline of products under development, according to Stifel Nicolaus, which raised its rating on the stock Monday.

The St. Paul, Minn., company has a pipeline that spans several businesses and targets new and existing markets, analyst Rick Wise wrote after the company's annual meeting with Wall Street analysts Friday.

Wise wrote that it seemed increasingly clear that the company's pipeline is filled with compelling, next-generation products and "potentially transformative innovations" that have the potential to drive growth. He noted, as examples, a wireless pacemaker and another product that can remotely monitor patients for heart failure.

He added that at the analyst meeting there also was a clear sense of stability in the company's mature business for the first time in several years. Wise raised his rating on the shares to "buy" from "hold."

Last month, St. Jude Medical Inc. posted a 3 percent rise in fourth-quarter profit on increasing sales of implantable defibrillators and devices that treat atrial fibrillation, a type of irregular heartbeat. The company earned $123 million, or 42 cents per share, on $1.42 billion in revenue.

Company shares rose 3 percent, or $1.91, to $63.91 Monday less than an hour before the opening bell.

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