July 19, 2012 / 2:27 PM / in 6 years

Textron earnings soar past Wall Street target

(Reuters) - Textron Inc (TXT.N) blew past Wall Street forecasts with a near-doubling of its quarterly profit, helped by strong demand for its Bell helicopters and a pickup in sales at its Cessna jet unit.

Its shares soared 10.4 percent to $26.24 on the New York Stock Exchange on the news, with analysts pointing to better-than-expected profit margins, particularly at Cessna.

The world’s largest maker of corporate jets, which also makes EZ-Go golf carts and industrial components, said on Thursday that its second-quarter profit came to $172 million, or 58 cents per share, compared with $90 million, or 29 cents per share, a year earlier.

Revenue rose 10.7 percent to $3.02 billion from $2.73 billion.

Analysts on average had looked for earnings of 44 cents per share on $2.99 billion in revenue, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The Providence, Rhode Island-based company has been riding a wave of strong demand for helicopters, and sales of its Cessna corporate aircraft have started to pick up after a long torpor.

Despite the second-quarter beat, Textron held its full-year profit forecast steady at $1.80 to $2.00 per share. Chief Executive Officer Scott Donnelly said that reflected the uncertain economy and the fact that purchases of corporate jets are strongly linked to business confidence.

“It is prudent at this point, given the uncertain nature of the economic and political situation, particularly in the United States, that we be a little cautious about the second half of the year,” Donnelly said. He said the company’s caution reflected the overall economic outlook, and that it was not reacting to warning signs in its own order flows.

“Our confidence in the numbers is now higher and Textron could clearly exceed its range,” said Vertical Research Partners analyst Jeffrey Sprague.

He noted that Cessna notched a 4.6 percent operating margin in the quarter, almost a full percentage point over what he had forecast.

    Donnelly noted that Cessna CEO Scott Ernest -- who joined the company in May 2011 -- had spent much of the past year reorganizing the division to make its managers more focused on profitability. Both Donnelly, who joined Textron in 2008, and Ernest previously worked at General Electric Co (GE.N)’s jet engine unit.

    Sales rose 21.1 percent at Bell and increased 17 percent at Cessna, the company said.

    Cessna booked a large order for its Citation Latitude business aircraft last month. NetJets committed to buy 25 of the aircraft with an option to buy another 125, with deliveries to begin in 2016. NetJets, owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc (BRKa.N), also agreed at the time to buy up to 275 Learjet aircraft made by Canada’s Bombardier Inc (BBDb.TO).

    Textron’s other rivals include Brazil’s Embraer SA (EMBR3.SA) in corporate jets and United Technologies Corp (UTX.N)’s Sikorsky unit in helicopters.

    Textron’s better-than-expected profit comes the day after diversified U.S. manufacturer Honeywell International Inc (HON.N) -- which makes cockpit electronics and engines for small planes -- also topped Wall Street’s forecast.

    At Wednesday's close, Textron shares had risen about 24 percent so far this year, greatly outpacing the 8 percent rise of the broad Standard & Poor's 500 index .SPX.

    Reporting by Scott Malone in Boston; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn, Gerald E. McCormick, Dave Zimmerman

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