So far this week, defense contractors General Dynamics (NYSE:GD), Rockwell Collins (NYSE:COL), Textron (NYSE:TXT), and United Technologies (NYSE:UTX) have all reported earnings to positive, if modest, acclaim on Wall Street. Today, Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT) turned out to be the exception to that rule.
Reporting Q4 and full-year 2013 results Thursday, Lockheed confirmed that over the past 12 months it:
- generated net sales of $45.4 billion, 3.8% less than in 2012;
- earned 11.1% more profit on these sales -- $3 billion in total, or $9.04 per diluted share;
- and generated $3.7 billion in free cash flow, 23% more than it reported in "net income," and roughly six times more cash profit than it produced in 2012.
Viewed on their own, these sound like pretty good numbers -- less sales but not an unconscionably lower number, given the constrained defense spending environment. Robust earnings, and even stronger free cash flow. So why did Lockheed Martin's stock fall 4% in response to the news?
The answer is: context. In the context of what analysts expected Lockheed to produce -- weaker Q4 sales of just $11.3 billion (it brought in $11.5 billion for the quarter), but much stronger profits of $1.95 per share (it earned only $1.50) -- Lockheed missed the mark rather badly.
Explaining the earnings miss, Lockheed pointed out how "goodwill impairment charges" plus the expense of paying severance to laid-off workers shaved about $0.88 off its quarterly profit. Pension contributions drained away an additional $0.23 But for these charges, therefore, Lockheed almost certainly would have "beat earnings for the quarter."
What it means to you
In short, Lockheed Martin's report really wasn't as bad as it looked on the surface. Indeed, given all the costs it booked during the year's final quarter, it's pretty remarkable that the company managed to emerge from 2013 $3.7 billion richer than it went into it.
Going forward, it is guiding investors to expect 2014 sales of at least $44 billion (down 3% against 2013) and potentially as much as $45.5 billion (essentially flat against 2013). Earnings are expected to grow in any case -- perhaps as high as $10.55 per share. Free cash flow, assuming capital expenditures similar to what we saw in 2013, should be at least as good as what it produced in 2013 -- roughly $3.8 billion.
At a projected valuation of 12.6 times free cash flow, therefore, the stock looks somewhat overpriced for long-term growth-rate expectations of 7% and a 3.5% dividend yield. It's not vastly overpriced by any means, but neither is Lockheed Martin stock a bargain.
Consistency is a virtue
And yet, if steady dividend income appeals to you, you might not want to dismiss Lockheed Martin even if it is no bargain -- because that 3.5% dividend yield is very attractive. Over time, generous dividend-paying stocks like Lockheed can make you rich. While they don't garner the notability of high-flying tech stocks, dividend-paying stocks are also less likely to crash and burn. And over the long term, the compounding effect of the quarterly payouts, as well as their growth, adds up faster than most investors imagine. With this in mind, our analysts sat down to identify the absolute best of the best when it comes to rock-solid dividend stocks, drawing up a list in this free report of nine that fit the bill. To discover the identities of these companies before the rest of the market catches on, you can download this valuable free report by simply clicking here now.
Fool contributor Rich Smith has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, and Textron. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.