With most of the major manufacturers still to report their first-quarter results, it looks like 2004 has got off to a strong start for the US aerospace industry. The first companies to report have posted revenue and earnings increases year-on-year ranging from 12% to almost 40% on growing defence and recovering commercial sales.

"This is a very strong start to 2004," says General Dynamics chief executive Nick Chabraja, unveiling a 39.1% increase in first quarter revenues, to $4.76 billion, and a 21.7% rise in net earnings, to $269 million. Business-jet subsidiary Gulfstream saw a 2% rise in net sales, but a 65% jump in operating earnings as margins improved. New orders kept pace with green deliveries, which edged up to 17 aircraft for the quarter.

A 12% increase in commercial and defence aerospace sales helped propel Honeywell to first-quarter revenues of $6.18 billion, up 14% from a year earlier, while improved segment margins in aerospace contributed to a 16% increase in net earnings, to $295 million. The "terrific start…gives us confidence in the full-year outlook", says chief executive David Cote.

Continued strength in its military business and improvement in the commercial aerospace aftermarket helped United Technologies boost revenues to $8.65 billion, an 8% organic increase excluding acquisitions. Net income rose 15% to $579 million - "a great start for 2004", says chief executive George David.

Revenues were up by 11-12% at UTC's aerospace subsidiaries Pratt & Whitney, Hamilton Sundstrand and Sikorsky, but their operating profits were reduced by restructuring charges. Earlier in April, General Electric reported increases in revenues and profits of 14-15% at its transportation segment, which includes aircraft engines.

There is also good news further down the supply chain. Aircraft cabin interior products and aerospace fasteners specialist B/E Aerospace reported a 13% increase in first-quarter sales and a narrowing of its net loss year-on-year on the continued commercial recovery. Parts distribution specialist Aviall saw net earnings rise 39% on sales up 13% on higher military business.

Textron's first-quarter revenues fell slightly to $2.35 billion on lower Bell and Cessna deliveries, but aircraft orders were up significantly year-on-year.




Source: Flight International