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UPDATE 2-Intuitive Surgical profit jumps; maintains growth forecast

(Adds forecast, details from conference call, share move)

By Bill Berkrot

Oct 18 Intuitive Surgical Inc on Tuesday reported a 26 percent increase in third-quarter profit on higher sales of its da Vinci surgical robots and double-digit growth in procedures using the pricey equipment.

However, the company maintained its full-year forecast for procedure growth of 14 percent to 15 percent, and its shares fell.

The Sunnyvale, California-based company said it sold 134 da Vinci systems in the quarter, up from 117 a year ago and 130 shipped in the previous quarter, at a cost of about $1.5 million each.

Procedures using da Vinci systems grew about 14 percent, driven primarily by general surgery in the United States, such as hernia repairs and colorectal surgeries, and by prostate procedures outside the United States.

On a conference call with analysts, Intuitive said it reaped about $1,870 per procedure, up from both a year ago and the prior quarter. It said procedures grew by 25 percent outside the United States, with uneven growth in Europe and continued strength in China and South Korea.

Intuitive posted a net profit of $211 million, or $5.31 per share, compared with a profit of $167.3 million, or $4.40, a year ago.

Excluding items, Intuitive said it earned $6.19 per share, helped by a 77 cent tax gain. Analysts on average expected $5.14 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Overall revenue for the quarter rose about 16 percent to $683 million, topping analyst expectations for sales of $650.5 million. Instrument and accessory revenue rose by about 17 percent to $348 million, while service revenue increased about 10 percent to $130 million.

"Intuitive Surgical reported an impressive revenue and a massive EPS beat," Evercore ISI analyst Vijay Kumar said in a research note, adding that the results were driven by higher-than-expected da Vinci system placements.

The company said it has added 400 employees year to date and sees operating expense growth accelerating. For the quarter, operating expenses rose to $230.6 million from $205.9 million a year ago.

Intuitive shares slipped 1.6 percent to $710 in extended trading. Its share price is still up about 30 percent for the year. (Reporting by Bill Berkrot in New York; editing by Will Dunham and Alan Crosby)

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