IRobot Buys French Distributor as Home Robotics Plan, and Stock, Pick Up Steam

Xconomy Boston — 

[Corrected 7/28/17, 3:36 pm. See below.] Roomba vacuum maker iRobot says it has struck an agreement to acquire Robopolis, a Lyon, France-based distributor of iRobot products, for $141 million in cash.

The deal is aimed at boosting iRobot’s (NASDAQ: IRBT) distribution network and ensuring “global brand consistency,” the Bedford, MA-based company says in a press release. Robopolis has distributed iRobot products since 2006 and is the company’s largest distributor in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, iRobot says. The acquisition is expected to close in October, and it should add more than $25 million in incremental revenue to iRobot’s business this year, the company says.

IRobot has been shifting toward a more direct sales and distribution model overseas. Last year, it announced the acquisition of the iRobot-related distribution business of Japan-based Sales On Demand Corporation for around $14 million.

Meanwhile, iRobot sold its defense and security business last year as part of a reorganization of the company to focus on consumer robots. Since then, it has invested in more features for its robotic vacuums, including adding voice-control capabilities through an integration with Amazon’s Alexa-enabled devices.

IRobot is positioning its Roomba vacuums as enablers of other smart home products. Reuters reported that the company could form agreements to share home mapping data for free—if the Roomba owner gives consent—with tech companies such as Apple, Amazon, and Google. [An earlier version of this paragraph stated that iRobot wants to sell mapping data, based on a Reuters report that has since been corrected.]

Time will tell whether iRobot’s connected home strategy pays off, but it seems to have Wall Street excited. The company’s stock was trading below $40 per share a year ago, but has more than doubled since then. It was trading around $108 early Wednesday afternoon, following a quarterly earnings report and a Bloomberg article (based on anonymous sources) stating that SoftBank Group has taken a less than 5 percent stake in iRobot.