Check your calendar. What year does it say we're in?

Ah, but at American Science & Engineering (NASDAQ:ASEI), they've already closed the books on 2008 -- and good riddance. Despite a strong start in fiscal Q1, the company proceeded to post a trio of underwhelming earnings releases, closing out the fiscal year with a real stinker. Now it's time for another go 'round, as the company gives us an X-ray view into its fiscal Q1 2009 business on Monday.

What analysts say:

  • Buy, sell, or waffle? The five analysts following this Motley Fool Rule Breakers-recommended stock are sticking to their guns, still giving it three buy ratings and a pair of holds.
  • Revenues. On average, they're looking for sales to rise a bare 4.5% rise to $46.5 million.
  • Earnings. Profits are predicted to tumble 20% to $0.53 per share.

What management says:
The big news at AS&E came just a little over one month ago. In early July, the company announced a monster $55 million deal to provide "multiple" OmniView Gantry cargo screeners, Z Portal vehicle zappers, and Z Backscatter mobile X-ray van systems to Abu Dhabi Customs in the United Arab Emirates.

As I wrote at the time, this deal is: "Equivalent to one-third of AS&E's annual revenue. ... Eight times the size of the recent subcontract that L-3 (NYSE:LLL) gave Analogic (NASDAQ:ALOG) for the latter's eXaminer XLB screening system. ... [and] Fourteen times as large as the most recent sale reported by OSI (NASDAQ:OSIS)."

What management does:
Of course, sales are only half the equation. Now we need to see how well AS&E does at transforming these sales into profits. Sadly, AS&E hasn't been doing so well on this score in recent quarters -- but you can see that for yourself:

Margins

12/06

3/07

6/07

9/07

12/07

3/08

Gross

46.2%

43.4%

42%

40.4%

37.6%

35.8%

Operating

23.6%

21.4%

21.1%

19.8%

16.6%

13.7%

Net

15.9%

16.1%

14.8%

14%

12%

10.5%

All data courtesy of Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's. Data reflects trailing-12-month performance for the quarters ended in the named months.

One Fool says:
TSA remains committed to tightening airport security. GE's (NYSE:GE) InVision division is doing yeoman's work keeping bombs out of the cargo department. And to keep smaller incendiaries off of the passengers, TSA is expanding trials of AS&E's SmartCheck body screener, currently in use at California's LAX and Phoenix's Sky Harbor, to JFK airport. In fact, since news of the $55 million contract broke, hardly a day has passed without news of another contract win at AS&E, from TSA or elsewhere.

Published press releases during the quarter described contract wins totaling less than $20 million. But while we've little assurance that Q1's numbers this year will look as good as last year's did, the future sure looks bright.

What did we expect out of AS&E last quarter, and what did we get? Find out in:

And for even more in-depth analysis, pick up a free trial of Motley Fool Rule Breakers on your way out the door, and find out why we recommended this stock in the first place.

Fool contributor Rich Smith owns shares of AS&E. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy sees all, shows all.