iRobot sells off military robotics business

NEW YORK—You may know iRobot for its popular Roomba series of robotic vacuum cleaners. But the Bedford, Mass., company also has been producing robots for the military, public safety and for industrial markets.

On Thursday, iRobot announced that it was divesting its Defense and Security business to focus on connected home robots.

The plan is to turn iRobot Defense and Security into a standalone privately held company. The buyer is Arlington Capital Partners. The transaction, which is expected to close in the next few months, is valued at up to $45 million. Sean Bielat, who takes over as the CEO of the new company, says it will be the largest independent provider of ground based robots to the Defense Department.

iRobot reports earnings next week and is in its quiet period. But CEO Colin Angle issued the following statement: “iRobot sees significant growth opportunities in the consumer robotic technology market, particularly in light of the successful Roomba 980 launch and the potential presented by the connected smart home. The sale of D&S that was announced today represents the successful conclusion of a process our Board began in the Spring of 2014 to enhance shareholder value. The divestiture of the Defense & Security business will allow us to focus on the Home Robots business, bring new products to market, continue our expansion in China and build upon successful new marketing campaigns. We are confident that our strategy of focusing on the home will position iRobot for continued growth and success.”

The company also announced that it was expanding a share buyback program to $100 million and that it was reaffirming the earnings it will report next week. According to Angle, sales for Roomba in the fourth quarter exceeded expectations in the U.S. and that the demand for the robots in China was also strong.

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