It's virtually impossible to value a human being.
To a company, a human being is valued at an hourly or annual rate. To the military, highly trained personnel are worth millions. To a family, a human being is priceless. But in spite of the obvious challenges, there is one little-known company that is working hard to answer this question.
As a leader in robotic technologies, this company is helping its commercial and military customers replace and complement human beings with products that increase productivity and reduce risk. Those incredible financial and social benefits are leading to big gains on the chart, with shares up 85% on the year.
IRobot (IRBT) is a little-known global leader in the consumer, industrial and military robotics markets. That has placed the company in a great position to cash in on explosive demand for robotic and automated technology.
IRobot's largest division is Home Robot, where the company is a global leader in the consumer and industrial robotics market, launching the revolutionary Roomba automated vacuum cleaner in 2002. Its product portfolio now includes automated mopping, cleaning and washing machines.
These products continue to gain popularity with both retail and industrial clients because they offer big time and money savings. Automating simple, repetitive processes is a simple matter of return on interest that also drives productivity.
Home Robot is a very important business segment for iRobot, accounting for 90% of the company's revenue, projected to be between $430 million and $450 million in 2013. And the business continues to perform well. Recent second-quarter results saw total Home Robot sales increase 20% from last year, to $115 million. Domestic sales were even better, up 26%. International markets also continue to be an important part of iRobot's growth strategy, where sales were up 18% as the company continues its expansion into China.
But even though the Home Robot division looks great on its own with market-leading technology and a portfolio of more than 200 domestic patents, iRobot is making a strategic move into an even higher-growth market with even more long-term potential.
|IRobot's Defense and Security division is on pace to produce revenue of $50 million this year. The division's backlog has grown to $20 million.
IRobot's Defense and Security division is making moves to capitalize on the military's growing interest in robotic devices. The company is a leader in remote control robots designed for high-risk, police and military situations where human life is at risk. Take a look at the picture to the right. These are familiar devices that most people will recognize.
These machines are in huge demand from law and military enforcement agencies because they help save lives. When you think about it from that perspective, this robot technology becomes almost priceless.
In early July the division announced it had landed its biggest deal ever, a $30 million contract with the U.S. Army's Robotic Systems Joint Program Office. In May, the division announced a $7.2 million contract with Brazilian military and law enforcement agencies. As you can see, the segment has been on a roll, having sold more than 5,000 robots to military and civil customers across the world.
That has iRobot's Defense and Security division is on pace to produce revenue of $50 million this year. The division's backlog has grown to $20 million.
IRobot is also heavily involved in leveraging its robotic technology for corporate applications. It recently unveiled an advanced videoconferencing robot developed with Cisco Systems (CSCO) called Ava 500 that allows remote attendees to experience virtual mobility.
This marks the second release in iRobot's Remote Presence business and unlocks an entire new market for mobile conferencing tools that does not currently exist.
IRobot is definitely not hurting for intellectual capital. The company has taken the core concepts of robotics and found consumer, industrial, corporate and military applications. And considering my colleague Andy Obermueller, editor of StreetAuthority's Game-Changing Stocks advisory, is predicting 2014 will officially mark the beginning of the "age of the drone," I think the kind of robotics technology iRobot is involved in will become a mainstay, becoming even more widely adopted by the military, state and local governments, corporations -- even inside the household..
Looking forward, iRobot is expected to increasing its earnings 64% this year and another 12% in 2014 as the company continues to benefit from surging military demand.
Risks to Consider: As a smaller player in the very large and competitive defense contractor space, iRobot will be facing fierce competition from some of the largest players in the industry. Although iRobot has carved out a very nice niche for itself in the high-growth robotics space, defense spending continues to fall, causing industry headwinds.
Action to Take --> In spite of the impressive growth story and gains on the chart, iRobot's forward price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 38 is a discount to its highly volatile 10-year average of 73 and well below its all-time high of 957. That places investors in position for more gains as the company continues to cash in on its leading presence in the global robotics market.
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