Taser on a Tear

Shares of Taser International (Nasdaq: TASR  ) surged over $14 (13%) Wednesday after the company declared a three-for-one stock split. The maker of "conducted energy weapons" surrendered a third of that gain yesterday, but Taser has been on one long tear since it stood at under $4 last February. The stock currently trades at $112.

Some shocking numbers delivered over the past year fueled that gain. Third-quarter sales were up 216.7% year over year, while profits jumped to $1.1 million from the prior year's modest loss. Improving margins indicate that sales growth will be outpaced by earnings growth -- just the kind of situation that will send a stock flying. The latest boost might also be a case of shorts catching a massive wedgie: As of December 15, over half the float was sold short.

Still, Taser's dizzying heights demand that prudent investors set down the champagne glass for a moment and take a look at the numbers. Taser currently trades at about 22 times trailing sales and over 200 times trailing earnings. Of course, stocks trade on expectations, and that's the problem. The crystal ball is always cloudier than the rearview mirror.

As Dave Marino-Nachison highlighted in October, analysts have had a hard time drawing a bead on Taser's growth. Current estimates for 2004 peg revenues at $32 million and EPS at $1.23. But estimates for 2003 are 25% shy of Taser's guidance, so there's not much clarity here.

If we take that $1.23, Taser's currently valued at about 90 times 2004 estimates. I can't believe I'm writing this, but that's not crazy, especially if you believe Taser can achieve 50% growth for a few years. With Taser's growing monopoly in the law-enforcement market, and new inroads at the Pentagon, the company could easily exceed that pace.

Seth Jayson isn't so sure that Taser'swebsiteshould be so proud of its video showing policezapping a group of peaceful protestors in Sacramento. Talk it over on our Taser discussion board. Reach him at FoolishSeth@sethj.com.


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