When Rule Breakers pick TASER International (Nasdaq: TASR ) reported earlier this month that it would fall short of revenue estimates, I shrugged it off. Selling to the government, I wrote, is a tricky business, and order delays are common.
Then I read yesterday's earnings report. Net profit fell 39%. Cash from operations declined by more than $7 million. And, worst of all, margins tanked. Gross margin, in particular, declined by more than 6 percentage points.
Color me concerned. The bottom falls out one quarter after making massive operational improvements?
Some analysts are reporting that delays in three large orders hurt margins. Uh, no. Unsold inventory, by definition, isn't counted on the cost-of-goods-sold line. If boxed-up stun guns are crimping margins, then company execs are playing fast and loose with the books, and I don't think they're that stupid.
Remember, too, that we're just one quarter removed from a massive spike in receivables. At the time, Chief Financial Officer Dan Behrendt explained the rise by pointing to several deals that closed at the end of quarter. A $2.5 million sequential drop in receivables suggests he was right.
But even with collections way up, TASER couldn't turn its earnings into cash. The stun-gun maker burned $5.5 million to keep the lights on in Q1.
Let me be clear: Given weak competition, a brutal but effective legal strategy, and a product that has earned raving fans in law enforcement, there's a lot to like about TASER.
Still, there has to come a point when the business improves in a somewhat predictable fashion. That's the job of a good management team -- it's what owners paid for when conferring a reported $260,000 in salary and perks on CEO Rick Smith during 2006.
Today, they've little to show for it.
A stunning array of related Foolishness awaits:
TASER is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick. David Gardner and his team of analysts have unearthed four stocks that have more than doubled in the first two years of this market-beating service. Want to find out their names? Click here to test-drive Rule Breakers for 30 days. There's no obligation to subscribe.
Fool contributor Tim Beyers, ranked 3,251 out of more than 27,800 in CAPS, is a sucker for growth stocks and a regular contributor to Rule Breakers. Tim didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article at the time of publication. All of his portfolio holdings can be found at his Fool profile. His thoughts on growth stocks, Foolishness, and investing in general may be found in his blog. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy is a shock to Wall Street's system.