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AeroVironment shares plunge on weak third-quarter results

The drone maker reports net income of 17 cents a share, less than half of what analysts had forecast. Its shares drop 22% in after-hours trading.

March 05, 2013|By W.J. Hennigan, Los Angeles Times
  • AeroVironment is the Pentagon's top supplier of small drones -- including the Qube, above -- that give troops a bird's-eye view of what's happening over a ridge or around a bend.
AeroVironment is the Pentagon's top supplier of small drones -- including… (Gary Friedman, Los Angeles…)

After posting paltry sales numbers for its third quarter and missing analysts' forecasts by more than half, Monrovia drone maker AeroVironment Inc.'s shares plummeted in after-hours trading.

The company reported net income of $3.9 million, or 17 cents a share, for the quarter that ended Jan. 26. That is down $1.8 million from $5.7 million a year earlier.

Analysts on average had forecast a gain of 37 cents a share.

AeroVironment attributed the downturn to decreased sales of its robotic aircraft and its electric vehicle charging systems. The company said revenue decreased about 35% to $47.1 million compared with $72 million a year earlier.

The results were reported after the close of regular trading Tuesday, when AeroVironment shares fell 16 cents, or 0.7%, to $21.69. But after the market closed, they plunged $4.80, or 22.13%, to 16.89.

AeroVironment is the Pentagon's top supplier of small drones — 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.

Drone sales for the quarter fell 34.1% to $37.7 million from $57.2 million in the same quarter last year.

In a conference call, AeroVironment Chief Executive Timothy E. Conver said drone sales decreased because of delayed government purchases.

He repeatedly said that tight federal budgets and current sequestration measures were causing "uncertainty" but not resulting in lost sales.

"I'm unhappy with these results and their effect on our current fiscal year," he said. "But it's important to note that we believe we are seeing delays in order timing, not lost orders."

The company depends largely on funding from the Pentagon, which is winding down its presence in the Middle East and preparing for a prolonged period of budget cuts.

AeroVironment, which makes small spy drones in Simi Valley, hopes to diversify its customer base in the coming years with the Federal Aviation Administration's impending introduction of regulations allowing small drones into U.S. airspace in 2015.

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

Sales of the company's charging systems for electric vehicles fell about 36% to $9.4 million from $14.7 million a year earlier.

william.hennigan@latimes.com

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