These days, it's a bit unusual to see the market issue a resounding yawn when a rocketing tech firm exceeds expectations and posts 50% sales growth. But that's exactly what happened to FARO Technologies
On Monday after the close, FARO, a maker of computerized laser measuring devices and software for manufacturing, reported record sales to end the year. FARO's fourth-quarter revenues topped $22 million, up from $15 million for the same quarter last year. For 2003, sales reached $71.3 million, up from $46.2 million in 2002. Both figures trounced management guidance.
The market response Tuesday? Less than a 2% uptick. So why were investors sitting on their hands?
Maybe it's the fact that FARO has already seen a meteoric rise in its share price in 2003, from $2 to yesterday's close of $32.33. And, at first glance, a young manufacturing company trading at 60 times trailing earnings might look pretty expensive. But FARO's financials still shine: It holds plenty of cash, has no long-term debt, and has strong cash flow. But even so, it's not easy to put a price tag on this firm.
While FARO has been growing by leaps and bounds, no one is sure what the future market might be, or how soon it will arrive.
FARO estimates that only 5% of industry uses computer-aided manufacturing measurement (CAMM or CAM2). In simple terms, CAM2 allows engineers and technicians to integrate computer-aided design (CAD) and automated manufacturing, including computer-aided manufacturing (CAM). The common alternative incorporates hand measurement, which, by comparison, is costly, error prone, and time consuming.
It's only a matter of time before most manufacturers will jump at FARO's productivity-increasing software. Couple that with FARO's leadership position in CAM2, and you're looking at a potential market that will someday be measured in the billions.
For now, FARO gives investors a pretty wild ride, but that volatility provides plenty of opportunities to buy into what could be one of the seminal technologies of the next decade.
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Fool contributor Seth Jayson's favorite faro (the Spanish word for lighthouse) is in Fisterra, Galicia. He owns shares of FARO Technologies.