The aerospace industry has never been stronger, with experts projecting trillions of dollars of aircraft sales over the next 20 years. That's good news for long-term investors in aircraft parts maker TransDigm Group (TDG -0.69%), which has enjoyed great success in supplying major airplane manufacturers with the components and systems they need. Yet TransDigm's fiscal first-quarter results Tuesday morning fell short of the ambitious growth rates investors had come to expect. Let's look at how TransDigm did to open 2015 and whether it can get its growth back on track in the near future.
Why TransDigm lost some altitude
TransDigm's results weren't bad on their face, with key metrics showing solid growth during the quarter. Net revenue climbed nearly 11% to almost $587 million, and net income grew at the same pace to reach $95.5 million. Adjusted earnings per share climbed to $1.80, with a 7% jump in adjusted net income and a reduction in share counts contributing to the rise. Yet investors had expected far more, with sales coming in more than $10 million short and earnings per share missing by $0.06.
TransDigm owes most of its growth to its strategic acquisitions. The purchases of Airborne Systems and Elektro-Metall were responsible for about three-quarters of TransDigm's sales gains for the quarter, with organic growth providing the rest. On the earnings front, higher sales translated to greater net income, and costs associated with the acquisitions fell as the businesses became more integrated with the rest of TransDigm. Earnings suffered slightly from higher interest expenses that stemmed from the company's borrowing to pay its $25-per-share special dividend last June.
Even though the results fell short of optimistic assessments from investors, CEO W. Nicholas Howley remained upbeat. As he described it in a press release, "Our fiscal 2015 first quarter results are right in line with our original expectations." In particular, Howley pointed to success in driving adjusted operating income and margins higher, and despite what he called "minor puts and takes," the CEO said he still has solid expectations for the company going forward.
Dealing with slower growth
TransDigm investors already had adjusted to more sluggish guidance for 2015, and the company reaffirmed those figures in its quarterly release. TransDigm expects revenue of $2.51 billion to $2.55 billion for fiscal 2015, and adjusted earnings per share should come in 3.5% to 7% higher than they did in 2014. While investors have reined in their expectations somewhat, they continue to believe the company will surpass the upper end of its earnings guidance range of between $8.03 and $8.29 per share.
But the big assumption in TransDigm's guidance is that the company won't make any further acquisitions. Given the company's history of buyout activity, that belief could well turn out to be wrong, especially as peers throughout the fragmented aerospace industry look at strategic combinations that will enhance productivity and product offerings. Indeed, reports earlier this month that TransDigm was a potential bidder for the air-cargo handling company Telair only accentuate the fact that the company is always looking to broaden its reach when the right target company comes along.
The current gold rush in the aerospace sector is the perfect opportunity for TransDigm Group to make the most of its industry-leading reputation for quality in providing key components and systems to the biggest players in aircraft manufacturing. As long as airplane demand shows no signs of slowing -- and so far, growth in the industry continues unchecked -- TransDigm will have the ability to stake its claim to the riches the aerospace area has produced and will continue to produce in the coming years.