Defense Contractor Earnings Continue to Be Steady
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Several of the larger U.S. defense contractors released their quarterly statements this week and so far the trend has been to remain steady or show growth. As of now the planned reduction in U.S. defense spending has not yet seriously affected their performance but many expressed concerns with future plans and trends in the industry.
Lockheed Martin (LMT) saw an increase in profit compared to last year’s quarter of almost 25%. Profit was $700 million on revenues of $12.1 billion compared to the previous $560 million. The company though had a charge of almost $40 million related to cuts in its workforce.
Lockheed also expressed concerns with statements by the Pentagon that in the next batch of production F-35 Joint Strike Fighter that it should share in some of the costs caused by design changes related to testing results. This would be a major change in how defense procurements are normally done and could open up Lockheed for a large amount of liability and cost. The company and some in Congress have been meeting with Defense Department officials to push back on the idea of shared liability.
General Dynamics (GD) reported a slight increase in profits to $1.80 a share up ten cents from last year. This was on lower revenues of $7.85 billion compared to $8. GD expects for the year to deliver $7.15-$7.20 a share in earnings. The company like all of the other large contractors will continue plans to lower costs and shed employees over the next year to position itself for cuts in spending.
Northrop Grumman (NOC) also had an increase in profits. They were up 4.6% to $1.86 a share on slightly lower revenue of $6.61 billion. The growth was due to sales at their electronic systems segment as aerospace systems and information systems were lower. The company does expect overall earnings for the year to be higher then previously stated at $6.95-$7.05 a share. Northrop also saw pension impacts affect their earnings related to eliminating some jobs. Northrop had earlier this year spun off their naval systems business into Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) which reduced revenue substantially.
Boeing (BA) also did well beating analyst estimates by 36 cents at $1.46 a share. Boeing’s net income was over a billion dollars an increase of almost $260 million compared to last quarter on sales of $17.7 billion. Boeing is different from other defense contractors in that 50% or more of their business is commercial aviation. This earnings report was dominated by discussion of the 787 airliner which has just started deliveries and service with airlines. Boeing delivered more jets this quarter then last and has sold out almost 8 years of 787 production. Boeing too will look at reducing overhead and cost structure on their defense side in order to compete in what is expected to be a tight market.
So far earnings by defense contractors have yet to see the effects of the end of fighting in Iraq, plans to draw down Afghanistan and expected cuts in defense spending. Although the 2012 budget has yet to be finished it is expected to be flat. The Government is already making decisions on ending programs such as radios, missiles and potentially vehicle systems. Next year may not be so good and 2013 might be much worse. All of the companies are looking at their costs and how to deal with a Defense Department that is pushing initiatives to reduce prices and risk in acquisition programs. As illustrated by the F-35 the contractors will only do so much to absorb this risk and the related costs.