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Is Lockheed Martin Stock a Buy?

By Lou Whiteman – Jun 23, 2020 at 9:15AM

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The industrial giant's new CEO has big shoes to fill.

Lockheed Martin (LMT -2.13%) has a new general in charge, with Jim Taiclet on June 15 replacing Marillyn A. Hewson as CEO in a planned leadership transition. Taiclet has big shoes to fill. During Hewson's 2013-2020 tenure as CEO, Lockheed Martin shares climbed more than 300%, easily outpacing the S&P 500's 115% gain.

It's going to be hard to keep that momentum going. In recent years, Lockheed Martin shares have ridden the wave of increased defense spending, but due to COVID-19 and other reasons those increases are likely to shrink in the years to come.

A change in leadership is often a good time to reassess a stock. Here is a deep dive into Lockheed Martin's outlook to determine if the aerospace, defense, arms, security, and advanced technologies company is still a good buy today.

New leader, same great portfolio

Hewson did a solid job, but much of Lockheed's success in recent years has come down to the strength of its portfolio. The company is best known for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a trillion-dollar program for Lockheed and its subcontractors that is just beginning to ramp up to full production. The U.S. and its allies will buy hundreds of airframes annually for the rest of the decade, providing a steady revenue stream.

A Lockheed Martin THAAD system test launch.

Image source: Lockheed Martin.

But Lockheed Martin is far from a one-trick pony. The company has a large missile and missile defense business, including the THAAD anti-ballistic system deployed to counter North Korean threats, and significant exposure to classified space programs.

Lockheed Martin is a leader in hypersonics, missiles that travel more than five times the speed of sound. That's an area the Pentagon has identified where the U.S. needs to play catchup and appears poised to hold up well in the event of future U.S. government budget cuts.

The company also owns Sikorsky, one of the U.S.'s helicopter manufacturers with a primarily military focus. Sikorsky was a finalist in two Army competitions that will be worth a combined $60 billion in new business.

All in, Lockheed Martin has a backlog of more than $144 billion in future business, a figure that has grown by 10% in the last year.

Expect Taiclet to go on the attack

Taiclet is a U.S. Air Force Academy graduate who served as a pilot during the Gulf War. Following his military service, he spent time at the aerospace arms of both Honeywell International and what is now Raytheon Technologies before being named CEO of American Tower in 2003.

His past offers some clues about how he might lead Lockheed Martin. The defense titan is best known as the maker of the F-35, but it also has an extensive portfolio of defense electronics assets that blend well with his communications experience.

A Lockheed Martin F-35 in flight.

Image source: Lockheed Martin.

Taiclet is also known as a dealmaker, doing about $30 billion in acquisitions during his 17 years at American Tower. In a meeting with Wall Street analysts following his appointment as CEO, he said he was unlikely to pursue deals that would move Lockheed Martin away from defense and toward commercial customers, but would be interested in expanding the company's aftermarket, or spare part, sales, or adding new technologies to Lockheed Martin's portfolio.

Taiclet has been on Lockheed's board since 2018, but there is still some risk in bringing in an outsider to run the company. Worth noting: Frank St. John, a 30-year Lockheed Martin veteran, was promoted to chief operating officer as part of the leadership transition. And Hewson will stay on as executive chairman of the board.

Is Lockheed a buy?

Defense stocks can be tricky in an election year, and regardless of who wins in 2020, increased government spending due to COVID-19 will likely put pressure on Pentagon budget growth for the next few years.

But the world is not growing any safer, and the Pentagon has committed to a multiyear transformation to better prepare itself for potential conflicts against Russia and China. That's unlikely to be derailed no matter how the election goes, and Lockheed Martin's portfolio is set up well to benefit from the Pentagon's priorities.

I wouldn't expect Lockheed Martin shares to more than double the S&P 500's performance again over the next seven years, but the company's business is set up well to grow for the foreseeable future. Couple that with the stock's near-industry-high dividend yield of more than 2.5%, and Lockheed Martin remains one of the first stocks I'd recommend to those interested in the defense sector.

Lou Whiteman owns shares of Lockheed Martin. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends American Tower. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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