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Business

iRobot cutting 80 jobs as military business falls off

Shares of iRobot Corp. in Bedford fell sharply Wednesday after the company said it expects to lose money in its fourth quarter and that it is cutting 80 jobs, or 13 percent of its workforce.

Of the jobs lost, 40 are in Bedford and another 30 are the result of iRobot’s decision to close an office in North Carolina that worked on the Sea­glider, an underwater robot used by oceanographers as well as the Navy to collect data. IRobot will stop commercial production of the product.

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The company, which makes the Roomba vacuum cleaner, said it expects to have a total head count of 510 jobs after the restructuring is completed.

“IRobot is in a midlife crisis,” said Frank Tobe, editor of The Robot Report. “They are trying to phase down their government/military operation . . . and trying to increase their nongovernmental revenue.”

In February, iRobot warned of possible losses as cuts in defense spending were expected to reduce demand for its military robots, which perform such battlefield tasks as reconnaissance and neutralizing explosive devices.

The company issued its third-quarter financial results late Tuesday. In a press release about earnings, iRobot said that the outlook for its military robots had “deteriorated, and we expect further declines in 2013.”

For the third quarter, iRobot said that revenue was $126.3 million, up from $120.4 million for the same quarter a year ago. Net income was $15.2 million, or 54 cents per share, versus $14.1 million, or 50 cents per share, in the year ago quarter.

In a press release about earnings, iRobot said that the outlook for its military robots had ‘deteriorated, and we expect further declines in 2013.’

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Its stock closed at $18.32 on Wednesday, down $4.32, or 19 percent, from the previous day.

But while the military side of the business is declining, revenues from its consumer brands that include the Scooba floor scrubber are climbing.

“We are going to be growing revenue 5 to 10 percent despite declines on the military side,” said chief executive Colin ­Angle.

“We are benefiting from diversification of our product portfolio,” he said. “If you go back four or five years, it was home [products] that was losing money, and it was the military side that was carrying the water.”

Overall, he acknowledged, competition within the robot marketplace is growing.

“The robot space is becoming more vibrant,” said Angle. “In my mind, that’s an unqualified good thing.”

Michael B. Farrell can be reached at michael.farrell@globe.com.
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