Human short-sellers can rejoice: There is a bug in the iRobot
For the quarter, iRobot posted a loss of $0.10 per share, reversing a small profit a year earlier. The red ink came despite healthier gross margins. Revenues rose 32% to hit $61.1 million.
While those results may have been a bit shy of expectations, the biggest disappointment came in guidance for 2007. Management is looking to post pre-tax profits of $0.08 to $0.15 a share. That's way off the $0.30 per share in post-tax profits that Wall Street was expecting. Analysts who figured iRobot would be good for nearly $250 million in revenues will now have to settle for top-line production of $225 million to $235 million.
Investors are starting to wonder if there will ever be a payoff here. Management's long-term goal is to produce operating margins in the high teens. That target seems awfully far away when pre-tax profits are looking to clock in at less than 2% higher for the year ahead, with most of that coming from passive interest income being generated by the IPO cash hoard.
iRobot is already big enough to be realizing economies of scale. Last year it moved 725,000 Roomba vacuuming automatons and Scooba floor scrubbers. It also sold another 385,000 units to the military and industrial markets.
If you're looking for a positive spin, management did announce that it will break into a third category in robotics by the end of the year. Its lips are cryogenically sealed as to where the incremental product line will be, but it is expected to kick growth back up in the latter half of the year.
Keep an eye on that development, because it's the kind of news that could help shake up the moribund shares. There is nothing wrong with cleaning up floors, even though the Scooba didn't deliver the knockout blow that I thought it would when I recommended the stock to Rule Breakers newsletter subscribers shortly after its market debut.
Military robots are neat lifesavers, but that's rarely enough to propel a stock higher. Companies like Ionatron
So let's hope that iRobot grows up to be more than a maker of automated interest income generation. It will be then -- and only then -- that we will be able to redefine "sci-fi" as "science finance."
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is a fan of iRobot, but he does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool's disclosure policy runs on a Commodore 64.