Nanometrics Measures Up

While Taser (Nasdaq: TASR  ) and Travelzoo (Nasdaq: TZOO  ) skyrocket as sales and earnings explode, fast-growing Nanometrics (Nasdaq: NANO  ) -- even with its sexy "nano" stock symbol -- closed yesterday down 6% from its price 52 weeks ago.

All that changed today when the company announced third-quarter sales increased 25% from last quarter and 100% from the same quarter last year. The company also earned $0.20 a share -- a sharp reversal from the $0.25 loss a year ago. Wall Street liked the news and sent the stock up almost 30%.

Nanometrics is a micro cap with only 12.3 million shares outstanding. And while nanotechnology may be a sexy topic, this is a metrology (measurement) company.

While metrology may not be sexy, investors should note the company beat mean analysts earnings estimates by $0.06 a share this quarter. With those same four analysts expecting earnings of $0.99 a share next year, the company -- even at today's high -- is selling for a reasonable 16 times forward earnings.

Nanometrics is helping wafer, flat-panel display, and magnetic head manufacturers optimize production and quality. The company spent 32% of revenue in 2003 on research and development -- a very high level of commitment that is now paying off.

Nanometrics is not a start-up. It had sales of $41 million last year. But, in the past, the company got rocked when technology companies cut back on capital spending. The difference today is that the company has a hot product in 300mm wafer measurement equipment and is in a position to generate meaningful earnings.

Nanometrics is not one of the sexy nanotechnology companies many have chased on Wall Street. It is a company measuring its way to strong and profitable growth.

Fool contributor W.D. Crotty does not own stock in any of the companies mentioned.


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