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GeoEye Makes Contact With Investors

For a company whose raison d'etre is providing clear pictures of the Earth from space, GeoEye's (Nasdaq: GEOY  ) fiscal 2007 earnings report gave a pretty blurry view of its own performance.

Reporting its full-year numbers Wednesday, the Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation gave us some good news, and some "no news." Addressing those in reverse order, management declined to say how much it actually earned last year. You see, the firm hasn't yet fully completed its March 2007 purchase of MJ Harden Associates. And because of a wrinkle in how GAAP standards allow it to set off MJ's past losses against GeoEye's current profits to reduce income taxes, management isn't quite sure what its tax liability was last year. GeoEye hopes to have the math all worked out in time to file its 10-K by deadline.

So what does it know?
Tax accounting aside, GeoEye seems to have had a really good year. Sales jumped 22% to $183.8 million, and almost all of that growth was organic, "attributable to a $29.9 million increase in imagery and production revenues generated from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), GeoEye's largest customer."

Gross profit rose 57%, thanks to revenue growth and the lack of depreciation charges on the firm's now-junked OrbView-3 satellite (a mixed blessing, that). Pre-tax operating profits nearly tripled to $70 million for the year, with OrbView-3 helping that number. GeoEye reaped a small windfall from the insurance payout on the satellite -- even more than it wrote off when it went kaput.

Anything else?
Not in the earnings release, no. I consider this a disservice to investors. The most important news of the day -- the status of the launch plans for GeoEye-1 -- wasn't in the release at all, being discussed only on a later conference call. The long and short of things is that the new satellite is undergoing its last round of testing at a General Dynamics (NYSE: GD  ) facility. It's about two weeks late, and this may make it harder for GeoEye to wrangle a decent launch date out of Boeing (NYSE: BA  ) and Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT  ) , which are partners in United Launch Alliance, which will be putting the bird in the sky. An August launch is therefore looking more and more likely.

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