AeroVironment Posts 1st Quarter Loss of $1.4M

AeroVironment Inc. posted a first-quarter loss of $1.4 million, or 6 cents a share, brought on by decreased sales of its unmanned aircraft.

Analysts on average had forecast a loss of 3 cents a share.In the same period last year the company had a profit of $326,000, or 2 cents a share.

AeroVironment is the Pentagon’s top supplier of small UAS — including the Raven, Wasp and Puma models — that give troops on the ground a bird’s-eye view of what’s happening over a ridge or around a bend.

The company, which makes UAS in its Simi Valley facilities, said revenue decreased 5% to $58.7 million compared with $62 million for the same quarter last year.

UAS sales for the quarter fell 6.5% to $48.8 million from $52.2 million in the same quarter last year.

In a conference call, AeroVironment Chief Executive Timothy E. Conver said the decrease in UAS sales was expected. The company depends largely on funding from the Pentagon, which is winding down its presence in the Middle East.

“I think the general conventional wisdom going forward is that, even in a highly constrained budget environment, unmanned airplane systems will remain a defence budget priority,” Conver said.

AeroVironment hopes to diversify its customer base in the coming years with the Federal Aviation Administration‘s impending introduction of small UAS into U.S. airspace in 2015.

Currently, UAS are not allowed to fly in the U.S. except with special permission from the FAA. But as interest in UAS has increased among police departments and businesses, the agency has appeared willing to ease restrictions.

“We believe that these rule changes when they take place could initiate a large adjacent opportunity for domestic use of small” UAS, Conver said. “Thousands of local police operations in the U.S. cannot currently afford helicopters and airplanes, but many of them could afford small” UAS.

Sales of the company’s charging systems for electric vehicles increased 1% to $9.9 million from $9.8 million a year earlier.

The financial results were reported after the close of regular trading Wednesday. AeroVironment shares closed up 20 cents, or 0.8%, at $24.22.

Photo: AeroVironment Chief Executive Timothy E. Conver / Al Seib, Los Angeles Times / March 2, 2011

Source: LA Times

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