Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.
The robotics industry is red-hot lately, in part, thanks to recent announcements from Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL ) and Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN ) . However, iRobot Corporation (NASDAQ: IRBT ) was another standout last week, after shares gained more than 19% on a mix of industry news and analyst upgrades. Let's take a closer look at why iRobot was a big mover last week, and what investors can expect from the stock.
Riding Google's coattails
iRobot got off to a fast start last Monday, following Google's acquisition of robotics company Boston Dynamics for an undisclosed amount. Similar to iRobot, Boston Dynamics makes robots that are used by the U.S. military. Perhaps, more importantly, Boston Dynamics is the eighth autonomous bot maker Google has purchased so far this year. This is important because it calls attention to the growing influence of robots for use by businesses, which is a positive trend for iRobot.
In fact, more businesses than ever are using robots today to help cut costs and improve manufacturing processes. Amazon, for example, paid $775 million last year to buy autonomous machines maker Kiva Systems. Today, Amazon's Kiva robots help the company save hundreds of millions of dollars by streamlining Amazon's order fulfillment system. Amazon is even testing drone automatons now that are capable of delivering packages weighing less than five pounds.
With more companies across various industries using robots, it might not be long before we see iRobot deploy automatons for manufacturing use. While iRobot is best known for its floor-cleaning bots like the Roomba, it's already made inroads into the health care space with its RP-VITA, or Remote Presence Virtual + Independent Telemedicine Assistant. In fact, the FDA approved the RP-VITA earlier this year for use in hospitals throughout the country.
Movin' on up
An analyst upgrade from Raymond James was also behind iRobot's climb higher last week. In a note to investors, Raymond James analyst Brian Gesuale upgraded the stock to a strong buy, saying the company should see a significant sales boost from its new consumer bots including its Braava line of robotic mops.
Looking ahead, Gesuale says iRobot's new Braava devices along with expansion in China could boost sales by as much as $100 million over the next three years. The company has already sold more than 10 million home-cleaning robots worldwide -- making it the most popular domestic robot today. Moreover, iRobot's consumer bots could see even more growth in the weeks and quarters to come as the company gains wider distribution in overseas markets such as China.
Looking to the future
Shares of iRobot have gained more than 81% year to date, and currently trade around $35.26 apiece. For investors with a three- to five-year time horizon, the stock looks like a solid long-term-growth pick.
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