What: Shares of iRobot Corporation (IRBT 4.64%) rose 12.6% in March, after the company launched a new robot and announced an accelerated share repurchase authorization.
So what: First, on March 1 -- and keeping in mind that iRobot previously increased its 2016 share repurchase authorization to $100 million in February -- iRobot announced that it had entered into an accelerated stock repurchase agreement with JPMorgan to repurchase $85 million of iRobot's common stock. At the time, iRobot also stated that it would partially fund the accelerated share repurchase with proceeds from the divestiture of its Defense & Security business unit, which incidentally closed for total proceeds of up to $45 million earlier this week (including future milestone-based contingent payments). The final settlement of transactions under the accelerated share repurchase agreement are scheduled to occur in the third quarter of 2016.
Then on March 15, shares climbed again as iRobot introduced its new Braava jet 240 Mopping Robot. With a suggested retail price starting at just $199, the Braava jet 240 should serve to not only generate incremental sales in iRobot's core United States geography, but also accelerate growth and help iRobot take share in the burgeoning China market. During iRobot's most recent quarterly conference call, CEO Colin Angle noted that earlier Braava product iterations helped fuel 70% year-over-year growth in China in 2015, thanks largely to predominantly hard floor surfaces in the region. In both cases, Braava jet should also help iRobot further diversify its revenue streams away from the Roomba robotic vacuum line, which currently generates the vast majority of iRobot sales.
Now what: Recall that the rebound also came after iRobot stock got punished as the market reacted to the company's underwhelming revenue and earnings growth for the coming year. But as I wrote at the time, Angle explained that the company is currently in the process of making strategic investments to drive diversification of Home Robot revenue over the long term. So in retrospect, it should come as no surprise that iRobot would want to repurchase its shares before that greater diversification and long-term growth becomes more evident to the broader market. What's more, it seems the Braava jet 240 is only one in a long line of new robots we should expect to see from iRobot in the coming years. So for investors willing to hold shares of iRobot and watch as that growth story unfolds, I continue to believe the financial rewards could be staggering.