To borrow a phrase, rumors of Force Protection's
Sure, one leg of Motley Fool Rule Breakers' investment thesis on this tiny maker of really big, mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles (MRAPs) is looking mighty wobbly right now. The U.S. Marines don't seem to like MRAPs as much, now that "The Surge" has tamped down the IED problem in Iraq. Barring a new flare-up, much of Force's predicted MRAP revenue stream could go the way of the dodo.
Much, but not all
That said, because there's always a war happening somewhere, Force continues to find customers elsewhere. Case in point: Yesterday, Reuters reported that Force has landed a $115 million contract to provide 174 MRAPs to the British military. At upwards of $660,000 a pop, these appear to be Force's Mastiff Category II MRAPS, 6x6 wheeled monsters capable of withstanding an IED blast up close and personal.
Much like Force Protection itself
Although the stock has been rocked by the prospects of peace in the Middle East, that dream has in the past proven -- what's the word? -- ah, yes: elusive. So it seems to me that barring a miracle, Force has at a minimum:
- years of revenue servicing the MRAPs that it's already built and sold to the U.S. and allied militaries. Illustrative of this revenue stream was last month's $74 million contract to provide integrated logistics support to MRAPs in service with the Marines.
- at least a long-shot chance at building the military's Humvee replacement, the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (which we're now calling the "Jolt," whether the brass likes it or not). I don't rate Force's chances of beating out Lockheed
, BAE, General Dynamics (NYSE: LMT) , Boeing (NYSE: GD) , Textron (NYSE: BA) , Northrop (NYSE: TXT) , and Oshkosh (NYSE: NOC) on this one. That's an awful lot of firepower to "protect" against. But a chance is a chance. (NYSE: OSK)
- continued MRAP sales abroad, including the 14-dozen-odd vehicles now bound for London.
- and perhaps even additional MRAP sales here at home. As I learned yesterday, the military is discussing shifting "leadership" of MRAP from a skeptical Corps, to a perhaps more sanguine Army. That could mean continued contract awards for all the major MRAP players, Force included.
The real question is: Do all these prospects add up to enough revenue to support Force's $300 million market cap? Well, right now, Force has $500 million in trailing revenue. Given that most defense companies sell for 1 times sales or thereabouts, it seems to me that most investors expect Force's sales to decline.
Then again, when you consider that Force has booked nearly $200 million worth of "surrogate market cap" over the past six weeks, investors might want to rethink their opinion.
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