AeroVironment profit nearly triples in third quarter

Boosted by sales of its small drones, Monrovia company AeroVironment Inc. reported that its third-quarter earnings nearly tripled, sending its stock up in after-hours trading.

At one point, shares of AeroVironment were up $1.81, or 5.7%, to $33.55 on Tuesday.

It was welcome news for the company, which had experienced four consecutive quarterly losses.

For the quarter that ended Jan. 25, AeroVironment posted earnings of $11.2 million, or 49 cents a share, compared with $3.8 million, or 17 cents a share, a year earlier.

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.

The company, which makes its drones in Simi Valley, said revenue increased 47% to $69.2 million from $47.1 million a year earlier.

Drone sales for the quarter increased 52.6% to $57.5 million from $37.7 million a year earlier.

Also in the quarter, AeroVironment announced a deal with defense giant Lockheed Martin Corp. to pursue opportunities together in unmanned aircraft development. The primary focus of the agreement is to integrate Lockheed's mission systems, ground systems and technology with AeroVironment's aircraft, the Global Observer.

In a conference call, AeroVironment Chief Executive Timothy E. Conver said the deal with Lockheed could reap major benefits.

"Lockheed Martin is an ideal partner for identifying international opportunities for Global Observer to address the multiple needs for affordable persistent airborne solutions," Conver said. "We believe this collaboration can help move Global Observer into production."

AeroVironment also makes charging systems for electric vehicles. Those sales increased 25.5% to $11.7 million from $9.4 million a year earlier. In addition, the company received $4.7 million from a gain on its investment in Swedish drone maker CybAero.

AeroVironment reported its results after regular trading Tuesday, when its shares closed up $1.02 cents, or 3.3%, at $31.74.

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