Continuing strong defence sales and a recovering commercial market fuelled substantially improved third-quarter results across the US aerospace industry.

Leading the top three aerospace primes, Boeing reported third-quarter revenues up 8% from a year earlier at $13.2 billion, with a 13% increase at Integrated Defense Systems offsetting an 8% decline at Boeing Commercial Airplanes. Net income rose 78% to $456 million.

All 285 airliners scheduled for delivery this year have been sold and Boeing has increased its forecast for 2005 to 320 aircraft, "which are essentially sold out", says chief executive Harry Stonecipher.

Lockheed Martin's net earnings increased 41% to $307 million on sales up 4% at $8.4 billion, with almost all of its segments reporting higher revenues and operating profits. Like Boeing, Lockheed Martin saw sales in its launcher and satellite businesses decline - but unlike Boeing's, which reported an operating loss of $153 million, the businesses remained profitable.

Rounding out the top three, Northrop Grumman saw net income rise 51% to $278 million on sales up 11% to $7.4 billion, with Mission Systems and Integrated Systems leading in sales and margin growth.

Results were also better across the board at the major suppliers. General Electric's transportation segment saw profits increase 28% to $773 million on revenues up 20% to $3.8 billion, boosted by higher aircraft engine sales and services. At United Technologies, the aftermarket recovery boosted Pratt & Whitney's revenues 13% to $2.1 billion and operating profit 15% to $318 million, while at Hamilton Standard and Sikorsky combined sales and earnings were up 13% to $1.65 billion and $224 million, respectively.

Led by a 17% growth in commercial sales, Honeywell Aerospace's revenues rose 11% to $2.5 billion while strong commercial aftermarket growth boosted operating profit 17% to $380 million. The picture was similar at Goodrich, where sales to Airbus and Boeing were up 5% and commercial aftermarket sales, including the business and regional aircraft sectors, grew by 14%. Goodrich reported net income up 47% to $50 million on sales up 10% to $1.2 billion.

Commercial businesses performed well even at defence-dominated companies like General Dynamics. Business jet manufacturer Gulfstream saw sales fall 10% to $798 million, but boosted its operating earnings 134% to $117 million, helping lift net income at parent GD 23% to $322 million on revenues up 9% at $4.8 billion.

At L-3 Communications, organic growth in commercial sales was 27.4% compared with 17.3% for defence. Together with acquisitions, they boosted L-3's sales 41% to $1.8 billion and net income by just under 35% to $102 million. Defence business figured strongly in Raytheon's third-quarter figures, which saw its government and defence sectors achieve a record $30 billion backlog.



Source: Flight International