Burned out on following food companies buffed up by the Atkins craze? Tired of playing peek-a-boo with steel stocks? Have no clue where oil is going next week? Well, welcome to the next cyclical upswing -- aerospace.
Major plane builders like Boeing
B/E Aerospace's first-quarter report suggests that business is starting to pick up in the commercial aviation business. Sales were up 12% for the quarter, but bookings grew 36% in the same period as the company secured major wins from customers like Air France
Operating income grew 57% in the quarter as the company's operating margin improved by about 280 basis points from last year and 150 basis points from the December quarter. Not only did the company see improved margins in its commercial aviation and distribution segments, but the business jet segment improved significantly as well (reversing a year-ago operating loss).
Exiting the quarter, the company had about $760 million in backlog for products like its MiniPod seats, onboard galley equipment, and LED lighting systems. Interestingly, less than 10% of that backlog is for domestic customers. Unlike their weak sisters in the United States, many international carriers are doing relatively well financially and are willing and able to spend on cabin interior upgrades to enhance their competitiveness.
That's not to say that the company doesn't have solid domestic customers. SouthwestAirlines
But the real story at B/E Aerospace is the future. The company expects considerable orders related to the new Airbus aircraft, with most of that commercial aircraft business materializing in 2006. Should that materialize, management believes that the company could see upwards of $1.00 per share in earnings.
This stock isn't necessarily a slam-dunk, though. The shares have already risen in anticipation of the improving outlook for aerospace, and the company has a very heavy debt load. What's more, even though the overseas airline industry is doing better than the domestic industry, major shocks like war or terrorism could bring this aerospace revival to a premature end.
Nevertheless, an aerospace revival isn't yet the topic dujour in financial magazines or on the weekly cable TV financial rodeo circuit. That suggests to this Fool that there could be a little altitude left in the sector. Just don't make the mistake of thinking that the companies, and their stocks, will stay aloft indefinitely.
For more aerospace Foolishness, see:
- Gas Pains at Continental
- When the Sky Really Is the Limit
- Southwest King of Another Quarter
- Delta Grounds Paid Food
Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).