Firearms aboard a plane have yet to get a thumbs-up from the Federal Aviation Administration, but already the shares of Taser International (TASR) are flying. The company makes weapons less lethal than most other firearms--specifically, the stun guns that the police and other law-enforcement agencies use, including private security guards. Shares of Taser, trading at 6.80 on Sept. 21, 2001, had shot up to 16.21 by Mar. 13. One reason: United Airlines has bought 1,300 Taser guns for $1 million in anticipation of FAA approval, which the airline believes is forthcoming.
Taser Chairman Phillips Smith says United has been training its San Francisco and Boston crew members in the use of the Advanced Taser, which immobilizes its victim. Using electrical impulses that temporarily disrupt the body's central nervous system, the weapon isn't fatal, according to Smith. He says that several foreign airlines have agreed to buy Taser guns and that two U.S. carriers, Mesa Airlines and ATA, are planning to purchase several hundred Tasers apiece. Among the gun's current users are the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the New York Police Dept., says Smith.
Richard Ryan, an analyst at Dougherty, an investment firm in Minneapolis, who rates the stock a buy, has a 12-month price target of 23. Ryan says Taser, which had sales of $6.8 million in 2001, should double its revenues this year, to $12 million, and jump to $23 million in 2003. He sees earnings of 22 cents a share in 2001, rising to 50 cents in 2002. If all airlines adopt the United model of two Taser guns per airplane, the market for that industry alone, he says, would be 17,760 units, or $14.2 million. By Gene G. Marcial