Recently Public CHC Group Could Get a Lift From United Technologies Corporation's Sikorsky Spin-Off

Why you may want to consider investing in CHC Group over helicopter makers Bell and Sikorsky.

Mar 3, 2014 at 7:45AM

Shares of CHC Group (NYSE:HELI) have been public for just over one month now, and continue to trade under $10, despite there being a huge helicopter market and an ever growing oil exploration market. With possible mergers and acquisitions in the air in the helicopter market, CHC Group could see its shares trade higher soon.

Leader in oil exploration
CHC Group is the world's largest commercial operator of helicopters. In 2013, the company saw total revenue of $1.7 billion. The company was also one of only two global commercial helicopter offshore operators in the oil and gas industry. CHC Group had 238 aircraft on six continents at the time of its initial price offering.

In October 2013, the fleet of CHC Group was valued at $2.95 billion. With debt and market valuation, CHC Group has an enterprise value of just $2.36 billion. CHC Group's fleet is set to expand, with committed purchases for 36 new helicopters over the next four fiscal years. CHC Group also has a relatively young fleet with an average age of 11 years, one of the reason's CHC's helicopters have a 92% retention rate in offshore oil in the 12 months before its IPO.

Sikorsky would do well independently
While CHC Group is a leading operator, investors also have the option to invest in helicopter makers like Bell, a unit of Textron (NYSE:TXT) and Sikorsky, a unit of United Technologies Corporation (NYSE:UTX). Both of these units make up portions of industrial conglomerates who may spin off business units to unlock value.

United Technologies is in talks to spin off Sikorsky, as the unit sees declining sales from forced Department of Defense budget cuts. Sikorsky makes the famous Black Hawk helicopter and is the Pentagon's leading supplier of helicopters. However, sales of Sikorsky helicopters, and the profits that go along with them, are declining. Over the last five years, Sikorsky has received $18 billion in orders from the Pentagon to lead all helicopter companies.

In the last fiscal year, Sikorsky saw sales of $6.3 billion. While that number looks large compared to peers' sales, it represents around 10% of United Technology's $62.6 billion annual total. This is likely the reason for the spin-off or a potential sale. Sales declined from $6.8 billion the prior year. Profit also fell to $594 million, from a prior year total of $712 million. United Technologies gets the majority of its revenue from Otis ($12.5 billion), UTC Climate, Controls & Security ($16.8 billion), Pratt & Whitney ($14.5 billion), and UTC Aerospace ($13.3 billion). A spin-off or sale would unlock immediate value to shareholders and could also improve operating profits for United Technologies.

Bell the key to Textron profits
Back in 2012, Textron was rumored to be breaking up its company into separate companies to unlock value. Textron, the owner of Cessna planes and Bell helicopters, also owns small brands likes Jacobsen turf care and E-Z-Go Golf Cars. Textron continues to be a good bet on helicopters with its Bell brand, which has over 13,000 helicopters flying in 140 countries.

In the last fiscal year , Bell was responsible for revenue of $4.5 billion of Textron's total $12.1 billion. This was an increase from the $4.3 billion from the prior year and also represented a higher percentage of total sales, with 37% vs. 35% the prior year. More importantly, the Bell business unit was responsible for 60% of Textron's total profit ($573 million). As you can see, Textron is unlikely to spin off Bell due to its importance on revenue and profits. I don't see a split coming anytime soon

Foolish final thoughts
Making helicopters is a big business, which explains why United Technologies and Textron want a piece of the action. However, as United Technologies has found out, it's hard to grow sales and profits with declining revenue from the Pentagon. This is why I think investors should consider CHC Group and its growth in the oil exploration field. Shares have been beaten down from an already underpriced IPO. If the oil market continues to grow and energy companies need to get to new territories and deepwater platforms, CHC Group should see big growth.

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Chris Katje has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of 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.

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