3 Stocks With iRobot-Like Return Potential

Looking for big returns from technology investments? Look no further than these three players.

Brian Stoffel
Brian Stoffel, Timothy Green, and Tyler Crowe
Jun 12, 2017 at 9:06AM
Energy, Materials, and Utilities

When my grandmother got her first Roomba vacuum cleaner from iRobot (NASDAQ:IRBT) in 2003, my family viewed it as little more than a gimmick. While she kept it around for a year or two, it quickly found its way into the dust bin.

If I drew investment conclusions from personal interactions like this alone, I would consistently miss out on big winners. Case in point: Over the last five years, iRobot's stock is up over 375%, advancing over 80% from this February alone!

A vacuum sucking up dollar bills

Image source: Getty Images.

Today, three of our analysts share their top bets for stocks that can offer iRobot-like return potential, including Transocean (NYSE:RIG), Impinj (NASDAQ:PI), and Axon Enterprises (NASDAQ:AAXN).

Big returns from a deep value stock

Tyler Crowe (Transocean): Most investors looking for multibagger stocks like iRobot are going to look at small growth stocks just waiting for that big catalyst. However, I think there's another place to look: deep value stocks. One industry right now that is in deep value territory is the offshore rig industry, and few companies stand out with the potential to produce astonishing returns over the next several years like Transocean does. 

The offshore rig industry has been hit harder than every other aspect of the oil and gas industry. The higher costs associated with offshore development mean producers are electing to spend the small amount of capital they have on lower-cost sources like North American shale drilling. While this may be a short-term solution to make a quick buck while prices are low, shale won't be enough to replace production decline from around the world for long, prices will start to climb, and producers will start to employ rigs again.

When that does happen, Transocean will likely be a supplier of choice. It has used this downturn to completely transform its fleet into a younger, more capable suite of vessels that can handle harsh environments and complex drilling work. Management has also used the cash flow from legacy contracts to pay down debt and put the company in strong financial standing. When the market does turn, more of those revenue dollars should flow to the bottom line.

The reason this could turn into such a high-return stock is that shares of Transocean are currently priced like this is a dead company. Shares currently trade at a price to tangible book value of just 0.22 times. Keep in mind that Transocean's 10-year average price to tangible book valuation is 1.9 times. So, this is a stock that could be a multibagger before it even reverts to its mean value. That seems like quite the return potential to me. 

Tracking billions of objects

Tim Green (Impinj): iRobot's robot vacuums have propelled the stock to impressive gains. Robots performing menial tasks seems to be an unstoppable trend, and iRobot should be at the center of it. Another trend is the Internet of Things, where billions of objects, not just computing devices, are connected to the internet. A lot of painfully dumb ideas, like this smart toaster, have emerged from the rise of IoT. But there's a lot of potential as well.

Impinj is one company that stands to benefit. The company sells RFID solutions to a wide variety of industries, allowing individual objects to be tracked. These RFID chips cost just pennies each and are used by retailers to manage inventory and reduce losses due to theft, by warehouses to track the location of items, and even by restaurants to track customers and deliver food to the correct table.

Impinj expects to ship around 8 billion units in 2017, a 32% increase compared to 2016. The company is still small, with revenue of just $112 million last year, but as the cost of RFID chips continues to fall, the number of viable applications increases. There's no guarantee Impinj will produce great returns for investors, but there's certainly the potential.

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The intersection of law enforcement, AI, and videos

Brian Stoffel (Axon): Last summer was an unfortunate reminder that police often use deadly force when doing their jobs. When you mix race into the equation, it can be a powder keg for unrest.

And yet, last summer, we saw first-hand that incidents backed up by video evidence of what occurred often had a significant effect on how communities and prosecutors proceeded. I don't think it would be a stretch to say that body cameras will be part of standard operating procedure in the not-too-distant future.

No company stands to benefit more than Axon, which is better known by its former name: TASER International. While the company still provides its eponymous stun guns, the recent decision to change names underscores a shifting focus to body cameras.

But it's not from the cameras themselves Axon plans to make money; in fact, the company recently announced that it would be giving them away for free to any department nationwide that wanted them! Instead, it is the Evidence.com platform for storing and analyzing video that will be the real money-maker.

Once police departments sign on to Evidence.com, they can use the AI-enabled analytics to drastically cut down on paperwork and use predictive algorithms to focus their efforts on productive policing. Switching away from the platform would not only be costly, it would create major headaches in retraining staff, and potentially losing critical footage needed to prosecute criminals.

While the stock is trading at a premium right now -- 70 times trailing earnings -- that is largely because the company is reinvesting heavily in the Evidence.com platform, a move that I think could yield iRobot-like returns for patient investors.