Research Frontiers (NASDAQ: REFR) and Acuity Brands (NYSE:AYI) are both computer and technology companies, but which is the better investment? We will contrast the two businesses based on the strength of their earnings, institutional ownership, dividends, risk, valuation, profitabiliy and analyst recommendations.

Insider & Institutional Ownership

19.6% of Research Frontiers shares are owned by institutional investors. 11.6% of Research Frontiers shares are owned by company insiders. Comparatively, 1.4% of Acuity Brands shares are owned by company insiders. Strong institutional ownership is an indication that endowments, large money managers and hedge funds believe a company is poised for long-term growth.

Analyst Recommendations

This is a summary of recent ratings and recommmendations for Research Frontiers and Acuity Brands, as reported by MarketBeat.

Sell Ratings Hold Ratings Buy Ratings Strong Buy Ratings Rating Score
Research Frontiers 0 1 1 0 2.50
Acuity Brands 2 3 10 0 2.53

Research Frontiers presently has a consensus target price of $4.00, suggesting a potential upside of 214.96%. Acuity Brands has a consensus target price of $220.64, suggesting a potential upside of 8.42%. Given Research Frontiers’ higher possible upside, equities analysts clearly believe Research Frontiers is more favorable than Acuity Brands.

Dividends

Acuity Brands pays an annual dividend of $0.52 per share and has a dividend yield of 0.3%. Research Frontiers does not pay a dividend. Acuity Brands pays out 7.2% of its earnings in the form of a dividend.

Risk & Volatility

Research Frontiers has a beta of 0.28, meaning that its stock price is 72% less volatile than the S&P 500. Comparatively, Acuity Brands has a beta of 1.42, meaning that its stock price is 42% more volatile than the S&P 500.

Valuation and Earnings

This table compares Research Frontiers and Acuity Brands’ gross revenue, earnings per share (EPS) and valuation.

Gross Revenue Price/Sales Ratio EBITDA Earnings Per Share Price/Earnings Ratio
Research Frontiers $1.22 million 25.03 -$3.85 million ($0.17) -7.47
Acuity Brands $3.47 billion 2.53 $584.60 million $7.18 28.34

Acuity Brands has higher revenue and earnings than Research Frontiers. Research Frontiers is trading at a lower price-to-earnings ratio than Acuity Brands, indicating that it is currently the more affordable of the two stocks.

Profitability

This table compares Research Frontiers and Acuity Brands’ net margins, return on equity and return on assets.

Net Margins Return on Equity Return on Assets
Research Frontiers -329.10% -73.50% -67.03%
Acuity Brands 9.04% 19.89% 11.50%

Summary

Acuity Brands beats Research Frontiers on 10 of the 15 factors compared between the two stocks.

Research Frontiers Company Profile

Research Frontiers Incorporated (Research Frontiers) is engaged in the development and marketing of technology and devices to control the flow of light. The Company develops and licenses its patented suspended particle device (SPD-Smart) light-control technology to other companies that manufacture and market either the SPD-Smart chemical emulsion, light-control film made from the chemical emulsion, lamination services, electronics to power end-products incorporating the film, or the end-products themselves, such as smart windows, skylights and sunroofs. Research Frontiers has approximately 40 companies that, in the aggregate, are licensed to serve over four SPD-Smart application areas, including aerospace, architectural, automotive and marine products. Its VariGuard business unit markets and sells SPD-Smart products directly to customers for specialty uses, such as the protection of artwork and light-sensitive documents in museums and private collections.

Acuity Brands Company Profile

Acuity Brands, Inc. is a provider of lighting solutions for commercial, institutional, industrial, infrastructure and residential applications throughout North America and other international markets. The Company operates through North American segment. The Company offers a portfolio of indoor and outdoor lighting and building management solutions for commercial, institutional, industrial, infrastructure and residential applications. The portfolio of lighting solutions include lighting products utilizing fluorescent, light emitting diode (LED), organic LED (OLED), high intensity discharge, metal halide, and incandescent light sources to illuminate a number of applications. The solutions portfolio of the Company also includes modular wiring, LED drivers, sensors, glass and inverters sold primarily to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). Its lighting and building management solutions are marketed under various brand names, including Lithonia Lighting and Holophane.

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