Lifesaving devices for the heart are the economic blood pumping through the veins of St. Jude Medical. The St. Paul firm was founded in 1976 and rose to become one of the world's top sellers of heart valves. In 1994, St. Jude, under pressure to diversify, completed a $500 million deal with Siemens to purchase Pacesetter, then the world's second-largest producer of pacemakers. St. Jude's stock was trading at just under $6 at the time and has since jumped more than 950%, to $55, far outpacing the S&P 500 over that same period. The company is a leading manufacturer of implantable heart devices and has a market capitalization of $16.1 billion. The drive to lower health care costs and a sluggish economy have created headwinds across the medical-device sector. After a tough 2012 that included scrapes with FDA regulators over the quality of the wires that connect the heart to devices, St. Jude has returned to growth, thanks to a focus on products and some timely acquisitions.
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