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Lockheed tops analysts’ estimates as F-35 deliveries climb

🕐 3 min read

Lockheed Martin Corp.’s profit easily beat Wall Street projections even though the world’s biggest defense contractor had to foot some F-35 fighter-jet production costs as Pentagon contract talks dragged on.

Earnings rose to $3.32 a share, Lockheed said in a statement Tuesday, well above the $2.93 average of 16 analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Revenue of $12.9 billion exceeded the $12.6 billion analysts anticipated.

The company also raised its 2016 earnings forecast to between $12.15 and $12.45 a share from the $11.50 to $11.80 forecast in April. Lockheed increased its sales forecast to between $50 billion and $51.5 billion from the previous outlook of $49.6 billion to $51.1 billion.

Despite the problem with the latest Pentagon contract, Lockheed still is benefiting from faster deliveries of the F-35 Lightning II — distancing itself from early delays that plagued the fighter — and starting to reap the benefits of last year’s acquisition of Sikorsky helicopters.

“They continue to see strong double-digit revenue growth in the F-35 program, continue to retire risk in that program, while improving their margins,” said Douglas Rothacker, a company analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. “It’s all positive.”

Shares rose 1 percent to $258.86 at 9:37 a.m. in New York. The stock was up 18 percent this year through Monday.

The strong results set the stage for peers Boeing, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon, which are slated to report quarterly results next week.

Lockheed Chief Executive Officer Marillyn Hewson is expected to discuss the quarter and explain how the Bethesda, Maryland-based company is navigating a world fraught with heightened tension and conflict, during a call with analysts Tuesday morning in New York.

The company has the largest exposure of any U.S. or European defense contractor to Turkey, the site of a failed coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week, Byron Callan, an analyst at Capital Alpha, said in a July 16 client note. The country has expressed interest in buying six F-35 fighters between 2017 and 2019 and another 94 to be delivered next decade.

The stealthy F-35 is the Pentagon’s most-expensive weapons system, with total costs expected to approach $400 billion. The advanced fighter jet accounts for about 20 percent of Lockheed’s revenue, according to Bloomberg Intelligence.

Second-quarter sales in Lockheed’s aeronautics division, its largest, climbed 5.9 percent as the manufacturer delivered 14 F-35 fighter jets, three more than a year earlier.

However, Lockheed said it still hasn’t concluded negotiations with the Pentagon for two low-rate initial production contracts for the F-35 that it was awarded in 2014 and 2015. While it continues to build the jets, the manufacturer said it has “incurred costs in excess of fund obligated” and has alerted Defense Department officials that current funding is “insufficient to cover the production process.”

As a result, Lockheed has about $900 million of potential cash exposure and $3 billion in termination-liability exposure related to the contracts. The company said it is negotiating final contract terms and expects to receive the additional funding by year-end.

Sales in the Mission Systems and Training division rose 53 percent from a year earlier, mostly driven by net sales from Sikorsky. Lockheed acquired the largest military helicopter maker last year for $9 billion.

“If you strip out the $1.2 billion from Sikorsky, organic revenue was flat year on year,” Rothacker said.

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