Why Do All the Work? Let the Robots Do it for You

Ash is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.

Technology allows us to go places where humans can’t go, it lets us work more efficiently and we can even use technology to do the things that we don’t want to do. Want to inspect pipelines or valves at the bottom of the ocean? Oceaneering (NYSE: OII) can help you out. If improving surgery outcomes is your thing you may want to check out Intuitive Surgical (NASDAQ: ISRG). iRobot (NASDAQ: IRBT) will take care of the things that we don’t want to do at home; they even help the military out. Let’s take a look at the world of robotics and investing.

Oceaneering

You may have seen Oceaneering on the scene when the BP platform began spewing oil into the Gulf. Perhaps you have seen the company’s logo floating outside the International Space Station in some of NASA’s footage? Oceaneering is officially a subsea technology company based in Houston, Texas. The company helps out oil and gas companies by providing non-destructive testing services as well as ROV services and deepwater solutions.

Founded in 1964, Oceaneering has come a long way and is one of the world’s leaders when it comes to oil and gas based services. Oceaneering also works hand in hand with the Government, divers and anyone else that wants to use their advanced technologies.

Oceaneering has a CAPS rating of 5 on Fool.com, and no wonder: This company is small enough to expand, they’ve been having some great growth, they pay a dividend and the analysts are fans too! Sales over the last decade have grown from $639.25 million in 2003 up to $2.19 billion at the close of FY 2011. Net income at Oceaneering has done just as well; the company managed to take a 2003 net income of $29.3 million up to the FY 2011 value of $235.66 million--not too shabby, right?

Intuitive Surgical

If there’s one company out there right now that really gives us a glimpse into how the future will be, then I’d say that company is Intuitive Surgical. Intuitive makes the da Vinci robotic surgical system that surgeons can use to perform minimally invasive surgery. It may sound futuristic, but it’s going on right now.

Intuitive Surgical has seen their stock grow close to 80% over the past two years, but it is slightly underperforming the market over the last year. This could be due to the company’s relatively high P/E over the past years due to lots of potential growth in the field. At the time of writing the P/E ratio of Intuitive Surgical is 32.85, a number too big for value investors to stomach.

Sales and profit at Intuitive Surgical have been on the rise over the last decade. In FY 2003 the company had sales of just $91.68 million and a net loss of $9.62 million. Fast forward to FY 2011 and you’ll see that ISRG has managed to increase sales to $1.76 billion and a profit on those sales of $495.1 million. Yes, they have to pay taxes now, but at least they’re making a profit.

iRobot

No, not the movie, the robotics company that’s getting teens out of chores and allowing them to spend more time studying and playing games. That’s right, iRobot makes a line of home cleaning robots. Whether it’s vacuum cleaning, mopping the hardwood or clearing the gutters around your house, iRobot has a solution. iRobot also supports military personnel with their defense bots. These bots are used to perform various missions in the combat space while keeping human lives safe. There’s no doubting that iRobot is a leader in the robotics space; let’s see if it is working out for them.

This is the smallest company in the bunch, and perhaps the one with the best growth prospects. I think that their wide array of products and different markets to go after could easily push this company into the billion dollar market cap range fairly soon. One thing they have to do is get their earnings under control, and they do bounce around with their net profit, something that may scare away some lower risk investors. The bounces have a lot to do with their investments in future technology, something that will likely work out great for the company.

Over the last decade iRobot has grown sales from $54.32 million up to $465.5 million. The net profit over the decade has wobbled around a lot, but it has grown nonetheless. In 2003 iRobot had a net loss of $7.41 million; this changed to a net profit of $40.19 million over a ten year span.

Bottom Line

I like all three companies. If I had to give them a buy order I think I’d get some Oceaneering first, then some iRobot and, if there’s still some cash left over, an investment in Intuitive Surgical could give the portfolio a lot of growth potential.  


Ash1402 has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Intuitive Surgical, iRobot , and Oceaneering International. The Motley Fool owns shares of Intuitive Surgical. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. Is this post wrong? Click here. Think you can do better? Join us and write your own!

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