The novel coronavirus has become more than just a health emergency. The resulting economic shock from the pandemic has caused whole industries to have to rethink their future. Is there a bright future for large office buildings or movie theaters? It’s less certain now. The uncertainty has also spread to factories. The pandemic unleashed an historic wave of logistics problems and supply chain disruptions, causing massive shortages. This puts robotics stocks in play as manufacturers grasp at any solution to the mounting bottlenecks.
There are definitely real-world issues that have helped spark the logistics crisis. There are improvements to make in terms of labor relations, physical infrastructure, relocating manufacturing closer to home and so on. However, automation will have to be a big part of the solution. It can make a major difference, and can be deployed quickly.
With so much uncertainty in the industrial world, both CEOs and investors will turn to these robotics stocks to get things back on track again:
- Brooks Automation (NASDAQ:BRKS)
- Emerson Electric (NYSE:EMR)
- IPG Photonics (NASDAQ:IPGP)
- UiPath (NYSE:PATH)
- iRyhthm Technologies (NASDAQ:IRTC)
- Keyence Corporation (OTCMKTS:KYCCF)
- Kratos Defense & Security (NASDAQ:KTOS)
Robotics Stocks to Buy: Brooks Automation (BRKS)
Brooks Automation is a fascinating and underappreciated company. It’s a combination play offering investors access to two fast-growing areas.
One, Brooks is a leader in semiconductor manufacturing. Within semiconductors, Brooks is a leader in automation solutions and also advanced semiconductor packaging products. The automation part is particularly important right now thanks to the global semiconductor shortage. Companies are having to invest many billions of dollars to get their semiconductor supply chains up to speed. That means more orders for Brooks.
That’s not all. Brooks also has a large business in the life sciences area. Brooks built its business in this area in the storage of laboratory samples. It is a leader in products such as automated cold fridge systems to handle samples. It’s also moving into more flashy segments such as DNA/gene sequencing tools.
BRKS stock is trading at 38x forward earnings. That’s certainly not the cheapest growth stock around. However, it’s actually quite a reasonable price for a company that has grown earnings 33% per year compounded over the past five years. Semiconductors and laboratory tools are two of the best growth industries in the market right now, and Brooks has both under one roof.
Emerson Electric (EMR)
Emerson Electric is a classic industrial blue-chip company. The firm has increased its dividend for more than 50 years in a row and may be known as a stodgy, slow-moving operation. That couldn’t be further from the case.
Emerson has quietly repositioned itself from industrial operations to industrial software. As you probably know, software companies are worth a lot more than industrial ones. And the Emerson of 2021 is one of the leaders in software for factory automation, process efficiency and the Internet of Things (IoT).
It isn’t resting on its laurels, either. Emerson just announced plans to merge part of its business with Aspen Technology (NASDAQ:AZPN), which is a leader in software for fluids management. Aspen sells to 19 of the top 20 North American oil and gas companies. That’s some solid market share. Combined with Emerson, it will broaden the company’s leadership in factory automation and efficiency software.
Given that the company still screens as an industrial company, however, it trades for a much more approachable multiple. EMR stock is going for just under 22x forward earnings at the moment. That’s quite the offer for a company that is expected to grow earnings at a double-digit rate going forward. As mentioned above, it is also a reliable dividend growth story; EMR stock yields more than 2% at the moment.
Robotics Stocks to Buy: IPG Photonics (IPGP)
IPG Photonics is a manufacturer of high-end lasers. It makes medium and high-powered lasers, pulsed lasers and green-pulsed lasers as its major product lines. The green-pulsed lasers have been a particular growth area, as they are essential in the manufacturing process for batteries and electric vehicles (EVs).
IPGP stock is off 27% this year, due to an earnings miss. The company blamed component shortages for the earnings shortfall. Some analysts, however, are nervous about the company losing market share to cheaper Chinese-produced lasers.
That may be true in the mass market. However, IPG’s investment in R&D and top-notch manufacturing should ensure that it holds onto its dominant market share in the premium, high-margin laser space.
UiPath is a firm focused on robotic process automation (RPA). The company completed its initial public offering (IPO) in April with shares opening around $70. They traded up to $90, but have now sank to just $50.
The swift sell-off could be a good buying opportunity. UiPath’s RPA business is an exciting one, giving investors one of the clearest pureplay opportunities in the automation space. As UiPath’s webite says, “We make software robots, so people don’t have to be robots.”
It’s a compelling concept. UiPath gives developers the end-to-end tools to build software and code to manage robots and other automated systems. From there, it has other features such as built-in debugging that help streamline the process of maintaining the robots. Now we’re talking about automating the automation.
UiPath is just now coming up on $1 billion annually in revenues and is around breakeven on a profitability basis. So the skeptics can rightly say that the company’s $26 billion market capitalization might be a bit steep for its current operations. However, analysts see the business growing past $1 billion by 2023 as it rides powerful sector tailwinds. As such, with the recent pullback, PATH stock may be cheap enough to add to your portfolio here.
Robotics Stocks to Buy: iRhythm Technologies (IRTC)
iRhythm is a medical device company primarily known for its Zio heart rate monitor. The Zio is an innovative heart monitoring system that advances on existing technologies by collecting far more data and making remote monitoring easier. iRhythm states that this more complete data picture allows for health care practitioners to use big data and machine-learning to improve health care outcomes for heart patients.
IRTC stock shot up from $25 to a peak of $250 over the past five years as the Zio gained market adoption. However, shares have crashed back to around $70 this year. This came due to concerns over reimbursement cuts from Medicare and increasing competition.
Those are certainly valid concerns, however the stock is now down by two-thirds from its recent peak. That could mark an attractive entry point for this leader in the smart medical devices space.
Keyence Corporation (KYCCF)
Keyence Corporation is not a household name. At least not yet. But it probably should be. The Japanese automation firm has quietly become a worldwide giant. Its shares are up 250% over the past five years, and the firm now has a market capitalization over $150 billion. That’s serious money.
Keyence has achieved this success because it offers a must-have line of automation products. Keyence makes sensors, machine vision systems, measuring instruments, barcode readers, programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and so on.
These are the very core pieces of the modern factory and warehouse. None of this is glamorous on its own, but any sort of modern manufacturing facility needs mountains of these basic inputs. Keyence is riding a mega-trend as companies rush to update their dated facilities in the wake of the current global supply chain shortage. Don’t overthink it, in a global manufacturing boom, a company like Keyence is bound to take advantage of the situation.
Robotics Stocks to Buy: Kratos Defense & Security (KTOS)
Kratos is a leading provider of drone defense systems to the U.S. military. Cathie Wood of Ark Invest is a notable investor in KTOS stock. That makes a lot of sense, as Kratos represents one of the most practical uses of automation to improve the world.
Before, during dangerous operations, we’d have to rely on pilots to do the job, often putting them at great risk. Now, unmanned drones can conduct the same missions, reducing causalities dramatically for the U.S. Army and Air Force.
The Biden Administration has recently made a move to pull ground forces out of Afghanistan and instead increase the country’s capacities in “Over-the-Horizon” capabilities. That refers to using drones to maintain peace-keeping capabilities from abroad rather than needing to keep boots on the ground. Pulling troops out of Afghanistan will save a ton of money. A chunk of that could be reinvested in systems that Kratos sells to maintain the country’s defensive strength. In addition to drones, Kratos has other lines of goods in areas such as communications satellites.
On the date of publication, Ian Bezek held a long position in EMR and AZPN stock. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.
Ian Bezek has written more than 1,000 articles for InvestorPlace.com and Seeking Alpha. He also worked as a Junior Analyst for Kerrisdale Capital, a $300 million New York City-based hedge fund. You can reach him on Twitter at @irbezek.