Thursday, November 6, 2014

Xplore Technologies ( Nasdaq - XPLR ) -- Ready to Rumble

Xplore Technologies (XPLR $5.50) is a leading manufacturer of  tablet computers for business and military applications.  Its rugged systems withstand heat, vibration, water, and jarring drops better than consumer tablets.  They also have superior displays and a variety of special purpose inputs and processors to accommodate customer specific add-ons.  Xplore concentrated on the high end of the market until recently, selling the extremely rugged (Windows based) XC6 at prices ranging from $5,000 to $6,500 apiece.  Those machines remain in strong demand for environmentally challenging applications, particularly in the military area.  The company recently introduced two lower priced systems for the business market.  Many users are converting from notebook computers to tablets for ease of use and maintenance savings.  Consumer tablets, like Apple's iPad, have proven to be easier to carry and use than notebooks.  But they've tended to break easily, too, creating expensive downtime and repair bills.  Many large companies now are transitioning to more rugged tablets, like the ones made by Xplore, to reduce the cost of ownership while preserving the tablet's operational advantages.

A low-cost Android version ("Ranger") was released last year.  A major U.S. telecommunications provider placed a huge order for one of its divisions.  Pricing is approximately 33% of the high end XC6.  Google doesn't charge license fees for the Android operating system.  The physical characteristics of the machine are less robust than the XC6, as well.  For instance, the Ranger can survive 30 seconds under water; the CX6, 2 minutes.  The Ranger can keep working after a 5 foot fall onto concrete; the CX6 can handle a 10 foot drop.  For the field service applications the telecom had in mind, the Ranger was ample.

Last spring Xplore launched a low cost Windows unit ("Bobcat").  That system costs more than the Ranger, because Windows licensing fees are required.  But demand appears to be much greater.  Most corporations run their computer systems on Windows.  It's less expensive overall to pay a little more for the machines rather than rewrite large computer programs to operate on Android.  A dozen or more major prospects have been conducting Bobcat field trials.  Substantial orders now are rolling in.

September quarter results probably will be unexceptional.  Bobcat shipments will be low because most customers still were in the testing phase during the period.  Some of those units were provided as demos, moreover, and weren't recognized as sales.  The big Android telecom buyer also scaled back purchases temporarily.  It had to rewrite some software, delaying the full rollout.  That project now is complete.  The rest of the order will start shipping in the December quarter.  Sales to additional divisions appears likely next year.  Bobcat sales are mounting in the December period, as well.  And military orders for the CX6 remain vibrant.  That machine already is specified by several high profile programs, which are ramping up again as hostilities flare in the Middle East.  Xplore's lower cost Bobcat might do the trick but that would require extensive testing, which would delay production.

We estimate sales could approach $15 million in the third (December) quarter.  A similar level appears realistic for the March period.  For the entire year sales could attain $45 million (+26%) to provide (fully taxed) earnings of $.25 a share.  Next year all three lines promise to expand.  The Bobcat and Ranger offer the greatest potential.  Sales could advance 45% to $65 million.  Income could rise faster, as margins expand, to $.60 a share (+140%).  

Xplore faces two direct competitors -- Panasonic and a Taiwan computer manufacturer.  Neither participates in the Android segment.  And while both do well in the Windows area, they sell standard systems at elevated prices.  Xplore offers more customized solutions, which appeal to customers with unique applications.  The industrial tablet market is approximately $500 million in the United States.  Market research forecasts see it expanding to $1-$2 billion over the next 3-5 years, if not sooner.  Xplore doesn't do business overseas for now.  Export opportunities could emerge down the road.

( Click on Table to Enlarge )

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