Drone maker AeroVironment posts 1% rise in profit in latest quarter

AeroVironment Inc., a Monrovia company that makes small hand-held drones for the Defense Department and charging systems for electric vehicles, posted a 1% profit gain in its fiscal fourth quarter, bolstered by an increase in sales.

The company Tuesday reported net income of $17.8 million, or 80 cents a share, for the quarter ended April 30, compared with a profit of $17.6 million, or 79 cents, for the same period last year.

The results beat expectations by industry analysts. On average, they had forecast a profit of 72 cents a share.

AeroVironment is the Pentagon’s top supplier of small drones, which include the Raven, Wasp and Puma models. The company, which makes drones in its Simi Valley facilities, said quarterly revenue increased about 7% to $97.3 million, compared with $91 million for the same quarter last year.

In a conference call, AeroVironment Chief Executive Timothy E. Conver said the company’s drone sales remain strong in the face of tightening Pentagon budgets.

“We continue to sell more small unmanned airplane systems to existing customers with significant growth,” he said.

Quarterly sales of the company’s charging systems for electric vehicles fell 12% to $13.3 million from $15.1 million a year earlier. Despite the decrease in sales, Conver maintained that the company continues to roll out its residential charging stations for the Nissan Leaf and continues to expand internationally.

“We are also supporting Nissan to develop a strategy for distributing their new lower-cost fast charger throughout the United States,” Conver said. He noted that the company also secured contracts to build new installations for Mitsubishi and BMW.

For the full year, AeroVironment posted net income of $30.5 million, or $1.36 a share, up 17.8% from $25.9 million, or $1.36, the previous year.

The results were reported after the close of regular trading, when AeroVironment shares fell 2 cents to $25.44.

For fiscal 2013, Conver said the company forecasts earnings of $1.41 to $1.51 a share on sales of $348 million to $370 million. That meets analysts’ predictions for earnings of $1.44 a share on revenue of $349.4 million.