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Banking Lockheed falls on warning of accounting weakness at Sikorsky

Lockheed falls on warning of accounting weakness at Sikorsky

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Lockheed Martin Corp., already under pressure from President Donald Trump over its F-35 fighter, fell after warning investors of a “material weakness” in accounting at the Sikorsky helicopter unit acquired a little more than a year ago.

The issue will be disclosed in the annual report to securities regulators, the Bethesda, Maryland-based company said in a statement Tuesday. Lockheed said it hasn’t identified any material errors in its financial results or balance as a result of the “control deficiencies” at the Black Hawk helicopter-maker.

Lockheed’s profit forecast for 2017 provided an additional source of disappointment. The outlook for 2017 of $12.25 to $12.55 a share missed the average analysts’ estimate by about 50 cents and reflected an unexpected drop in pension income, Seth Seifman, an analyst with JPMorgan Chase, said in a note to clients.

The defense company has a track record of providing an initially conservative assessment of the year and then beating its guidance, Douglas Rothacker, a defense analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence, said by telephone.

Lockheed tumbled as much as 3.3 percent, the biggest intraday decline since Dec. 12, the day Trump first took aim at the costs of the F-35 in a Twitter outburst. After Lockheed Chief Executive Officer Marillyn Hewson provided an update on her discussions with the president, the stock began to recover. The shares were down 1.8 percent to $252.94 at 2:02 p.m. in New York.

“The meetings that we’ve had have been very productive, very good dialogue,” Hewson told analysts on a conference call. “He asked excellent questions and is really focused on making sure that the costs come down on the program.”

Lockheed is working with its suppliers to lower expenses for the most popular F-35 variant to $85 million per jet by 2019. Hewson said she suggested to Trump ways to save even more by changing the Pentagon’s acquisitions process. “It’s not about slashing our profit, it’s not about our margins when we have those discussions,” she said.

As the largest U.S. government contractor, the company sets the stage for peers including Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and General Dynamics, which all report financial results later this week. Lockheed is typically a steady performer and has missed analysts’ estimates only twice since 2008.

Fourth-quarter profit topped analysts’ estimates as the company delivered more Joint Strike Fighter, F-16 and other military aircraft.

Earnings from continuing operations were $3.25 a share, the defense contractor said in the statement. That compared with the $3.05 predicted by analysts. Revenue was $13.8 billion, while analysts anticipated $13 billion, according to the average of estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

Net sales for Lockheed’s aeronautics unit, its largest division, rose 23 percent to $5.41 billion in the fourth quarter. About $640 million of the sales gain came from higher aircraft production for the F-35 and retrofits of existing aircraft.

The results and forecast provide a better look at Lockheed’s performance and core businesses after a series of transactions that reshaped its business model to focus on military aircraft. Lockheed acquired Sikorsky, the largest defense helicopter manufacturer, while shedding non-government information technology units.

During its first assessment of the financial reporting controls after the purchase, Lockheed found that its new business unit didn’t “adequately identify, design and implement appropriate” internal controls for its processes and information technology systems, according to the earnings statement. The manufacturer expects to fix the issues this year.

“Thankfully, this has not resulted in any material errors in financial reporting, and no restatements are required,” Robert Stallard, an analyst with Vertical Research Partners, said in a note to clients.

Trump injected uncertainty into Lockheed’s main source of revenue, the F-35 Lightning II, tweeting that the program’s costs were “out of control.” Lockheed executives said Tuesday that that the company is close to resolving a long-running dispute over the 10th and largest-yet order for the fighter. The company also expects to close a contract for the 11th production lot this year.

The F-35, with a projected price tag of $379 billion for the program, is the Pentagon’s most expensive weapon’s system and Lockheed’s largest source of profit. Its cutting edge technology has been plagued by malfunctions, prompting the Obama administration’s top weapons tester, Michael Gilmore, to warn Congress this month of “significant, well-documented deficiencies in critical combat capabilities.”


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