iRobot (NASDAQ: IRBT ) will report its fiscal 2014 first-quarter earnings after the market closes tomorrow. This is an important quarter for the robotics company, particularly if it hopes to keep the momentum in its stock going -- shares of iRobot are up more than 9% so far this year. Let's look at why the company's first-quarter results could top Wall Street's expectations, and what investors should watch when it reports on Tuesday.
Reading between the lines
If history is any indication iRobot should have no problem beating analysts' estimates for its first quarter. The Massachusetts-based company has delivered better than expected results for the past four consecutive quarters. Not to mention, during the same period a year ago, iRobot topped Wall Street's marks by as much as 61% -- posting a fiscal 2013 first-quarter profit of $0.29 per share, whereas the Street was looking for earnings per share of just $0.18 in the period.
For its fiscal 2014 first-quarter results, analysts are looking for earnings of $0.16 a share on revenue of $112.26 million. This is near the high end of iRobot's predictions of earnings per share in the range of $0.13-$0.17 in the quarter.
Still, it shouldn't be too difficult for iRobot to achieve this, particularly as it has added new products to its consumer bots lineup and expanded into medical devices with its Ava and RP-VITA platforms. But more on that in a minute. First, a quick look at the robot maker's earnings strategy: under promise and over deliver.
One of the reasons iRobot has consistently over delivered on expectations is because the company has a habit of lowering its forecasts heading into each new quarter. For example, iRobot's forward earnings guidance last quarter was weaker than analysts had expected. Specifically, the company said it would generate fiscal 2014 full-year earnings between $1.00 and $1.15 per share. The low end of this range is significantly below analyst projections for 2014 earnings of $1.14 a share.
This has proven a smart strategy for iRobot in the past and it should serve the company well when it reports earnings tomorrow. Nevertheless, investors will want to keep an eye on one key thing going forward.
Going for growth
iRobot's entry into the health care and enterprise markets is critical to watch, as this could provide valuable growth avenues for the bot maker in the quarters to come. The company officially launched its Ava 500 machine earlier this year, and the applications for such a device are seemingly endless.
Ava is a portable autonomous machine whose interface allows users to remotely control the robot with an iPad. The Ava robot can navigate hallways to drive itself to meetings within a company's office and then enable employees to telecommute for important meetings. iRobot's Ava 500 uses Cisco's software and telepresence solutions. Bayer and a handful of other Fortune 500 companies participated in iRobot's beta program for the device.
The Ava 500 could help make collaboration between employees more efficient across a multitude of industries including manufacturing, supply chain logistics, hospitals, and large corporations. If successful, this would be a major growth area for iRobot. Moreover, it also helps iRobot diversify its product mix, which is largely concentrated on cleaning robots for the home like its popular Roomba bot. Therefore, investors will want to look for updates in iRobot's emerging technologies business when the company reports after the bell on Tuesday.
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