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Controversy stuns Taser net

2006-07-28 16:43

  The safety controversy surrounding Taser International Inc's stun guns has hurt the company's profit, which fell more than 90 percent in the first three quarters of 2005.

  The Scottsdale-based company said on Wednesday that net income was US$948,014 in the first nine months of the year, down from US$14.1 million in the same period a year ago. Sales for the first nine months of the year fell 27.5 percent to US$35 million.

  Third-quarter net income dropped to US$270,945, or less than 1 cent per share, from US$6.1 million, or 11 cents per share. Sales plunged by US$7.3 million to US$11.7 million.

  Taser, which manufactures three different types of stun guns, said its gross margin widened by 4.3 percentage points in the third quarter as it improved its operating efficiency and made changes to its product mix. Coupled with lower manufacturing expenses, the bigger margin helped it stay profitable, it said.

  Still, the company's sales, general and administrative expenses have about doubled, to US$7 million in the quarter and US$19.8 million in the first nine months.

  “What makes me more comfortable is that they've controlled some manufacturing costs and also brought marketing costs down,” said Joe Blankenship, an analyst with Source Capital Group. “I'm reasonably bullish on the stock right now,” Blankenship said.

  Taser executives said they were optimistic that the controversy around their stun guns was subsiding.

  “I believe we're starting to see a shift …… from a debate primarily on the safety of the device to the appropriate use of the device,” said Taser Chief Executive Rick Smith. “I think we're going to see things die down with the continuous legal and scientific evidence supporting our cause.”

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