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Think Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG ) the only company in China's gunsights these days? Think again.
Up on Capitol Hill, the President just lobbed Congress one heckuva political hot potato: a $6.4 billion package of proposed arms sales to Taiwan that's sure to ruffle feathers on the costumed dragon at the Chinese New Year's parade.
Has ruffled feathers, in fact. According to news reports, China has responded to the administration's move by canceling military exchange programs with the U.S., and is threatening to do a whole lot more, namely imposing sanctions on any company that helps build the weapons Taiwan is ordering.
Who's at risk?
The frontline targets in this verbal shooting war include:
- Boeing (NYSE: BA ) , which manufactures the Harpoon anti-ship missile. Taiwan's ordered a ton of 'em.
- Raytheon (NYSE: RTN ) , maker of the Patriot surface-to-air missile, ever on Taiwan's wish list.
- United Technologies (NYSE: UTX ) , which will be asked to provide 60 Blackhawk helicopters.
- And possibly Northrop Grumman (NYSE: NOC ) , which built the now decommissioned Osprey-class minesweeper -- Taiwan wants two refurbished for its navy.
Meanwhile, some investors are suggesting that makers of parts that go into the final weapons systems could also be at risk -- General Electric (NYSE: GE ) being a popular target by that theory. But the target that probably looms largest in China's sights has to be Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT ) .
Not only does Lockheed help build the PAC-3 Patriot system in cooperation with Raytheon: It's also the maker of an even higher-profile weapons system -- one not even included in the $6.4 billion figure quoted above. Yes, folks, in addition to all the other toys named above, the Obama administration is still being pressured to sell Taiwan six-and-a-half-dozen F-16 fighter jets. If the administration caves to such pressure, you could add at least another $4.9 billion to the value of any Taiwan arms package.
According to the old (fallacious) motivational talking point, the Chinese word for "crisis" comprises two separate symbols for "danger" and "opportunity." Well, that might actually ring true in this instance. The danger here is pretty clear (just ask Google), but that doesn't mean the opportunity's not there, too.
In total, the arms sales package appears to hold the potential for $11 billion-plus in incremental revenue for the U.S. defense industry, with Lockheed collecting the bulk of the loot. So if you're looking for the best way to play this particular "crisis," it seems to me that Lockheed is your best bet.
If China is serious about sanctions ... well, U.S. dual-use export laws being what they are, I doubt Lockheed ever made a whole lot of sales to China in any case. Conversely, this week's news shows us that it has at least the potential to make a whole lot of money in the other China: Taiwan.
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