CBS Zaps Taser

Non-lethal weapons manufacturer Taser (Nasdaq: TASR  ) plunged nearly 8% yesterday after Viacom's (NYSE: VIA  ) CBS teased its Sunday night 60 Minutes audience with an upcoming CBS News story on the safety of Taser weapons. Obviously, the market expected bad news.

What a difference a day makes. Taser opened today up $3.24 a share. Investors seem to have discounted the story even though the piece continues tonight with the question, "Is there a 'fatal flaw?'"

In last night's installment, Taser CEO Rick Smith discussed 40 people who died in cases involving the weapons. Taser provides the dates, locations, suspect names, suspect ages, what happened at the scene, and what the medical examiner reported for each case. Clearly, the company monitors its product's use -- which helps explain the stock's positive response today.

Of course, negative publicity is nothing new for Taser. When highlighted here in February, the company had responded to a Barron's article that questioned its prospects and its $44.33 per-share price (adjusted to reflect a 3-for-1 split). Surprise! Last Friday, the stock registered a new all-time high at $87.80 a share. In the last 52 weeks, it is up a stunning 5,100%.

And business is still good. According to last night's news story, the company has a 12-week backlog. That should bode well for earnings when they are reported this month. Four analysts covering the stock expect the company to earn $0.99 this year and $1.58 next year.

That works out to forward P/E of 82 (51 using next year's estimates) -- a bit rich to be a candidate for Motley Fool Hidden Gems, to be sure. But in Taser's favor, it has only 14 million shares outstanding. In a world where Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) has 5 billion shares and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) more than 10 billion, Taser is still extremely small. Good earnings will be spread across very few shares.

Those looking for growth in conventional firearms makers will be disappointed. Smith & Wesson's (AMEX: SWB  ) sales were up 7.6% last quarter. Sturm, Ruger's (NYSE: RGR  ) sales declined 8% in 2003. When it comes to growth and guns, Taser is the only game in town.

Interested in sharing your dumbest investment with other investors? Try The Motley Fool's My Dumbest Investment discussion board -- or our company discussion boards likeTaser's.

Fool contributorW.D. Crottydoes not own stock in any of the companies mentioned and is stunned every time Taser hits a new high.

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