UPDATE 3-Taser sees order delays in 2005; shares plunge
(Adds analyst comment, shareholder suit, updates stock price) By Bill Rigby
NEW YORK, Jan 17 (Reuters) - Taser International Inc. (TASR.O: Quote, Profile, Research) warned of delays in orders for the first half of 2005 on Tuesday, as law enforcement agencies test competitors' products, sending the stun-gun maker's stock down nearly 30 percent.
The plunge in its stock comes after three days of declines, spurred by Taser's announcement last week that the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the safety of its weapons and a recent distribution deal.
Taser stock has halved since Dec. 30, chopping more than $1 billion off the company's market value. Taser is now the target of five shareholder lawsuits filed over the past two days, each charging that executives misled investors to artificially inflate Taser shares.
"I think we'll probably see it (the stock) at this level for a little while," said Joe Blankenship, an analyst at Source Capital Group. "But at this juncture I don't see any other (rival) products that will be available near term."
Taser, which is already grappling with slowing quarter- to-quarter sales growth, said it may see a delay in orders as law enforcement agencies, which account for most of its sales, "evaluate potential new entrants."
Taser faces emerging competition from rivals Stinger Systems Inc. (STIY.PK: Quote, Profile, Research) and Law Enforcement Associates, which make similar products. On Tuesday, Stinger filed a counter suit against Taser in a dispute over false advertising and patent marking.