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BUSINESS NEWS

18 Jan 08. QinetiQ agrees to purchase a third Australian defence consulting company. QinetiQ Group plc announced that it has signed an agreement to purchase the Melbourne, Australia-based engineering business of AeroStructures Group. This acquisition follows the announcement earlier this month of QinetiQ’s purchase of two other Australian defence consulting businesses – Ball Solutions Group and Novare Group – bringing the total number of QinetiQ staff in Australia to 288 with a turnover of A$48m.

18 Jan 08. General Electric navigated choppy conditions in the US in the fourth quarter to deliver a rise in profits, boosted by the strength of its international business. The industrial giant, seen as a bellwether for the US economy, also maintained its earnings outlook for a year expected to deliver either a slowdown or a recession in its home market.Net profits rose 4 per cent to $6.7bn, or 68 cents a share. Earnings from continuing operations rose 15 per cent, meeting analysts’ expectations. Revenues rose 18 per cent to $48.6bn. Jeff Immelt, chairman and chief executive, said: “We have built the company to outperform in this environment. We are … more global, with more than 50 per cent of our revenues now coming from outside the US.” Strong growth in the company’s infrastructure business, where net income rose 26 per cent helped by the company’s oil and energy businesses, led the improved results. GE’s financial businesses avoided the turmoil in global credit markets to report a rise in profits. Its commercial finance arm saw profits up 9 per cent, while at GE Money earnings rose 7 per cent thanks to a strong international performance. But the company still took a loan loss provision of $400m to cover a widely expected rise in defaults and delinquencies on loans as the US economic environment worsens. In December Mr Immelt flagged up the risks posed to GE’s credit card business by the credit crisis and as consumers increasingly struggle to repay borrowings. It is seeking to sell off part or all of the business, and said during a conference call that it expected GE Money’s profits to fall 20 per cent this year. The company’s industrial arm and NBC Universal, its entertainment section, both saw profits rise, but the healthcare division suffered a 4 per cent drop in earnings. Mr Immelt said he maintained his earnings forecast for the full year of 10 per cent or more in profit growth, or earnings per share of $2.42 plus, slightly less than the consensus estimate among analysts of $2.43 a share, according to Reuters. He promised revenue growth of two to three times the pace of the US economy. For the first quarter, GE expects to deliver continuing earnings per share of 50-53 cents, up 4-10 per cent. Wall Street analysts are predicting earnings of 51 cents a share. (Source: FT.com)

16 Jan 08. Cobham, the UK-based defence and aerospace group, continued its expansion into the US defence sector on Wednesday, buying unquoted Sparta for $416m in cash. Sparta, which operates out of Washington DC, provides scientific, systems engineering and technical assistance to the US military and intelligence services. Its particular strengths are in information management for the intelligence services and in missile engineering. Cobham said it expected the acquisition to complete in the second quarter and to be earnings enhancing in 2008. Sparta’s management team will continue to run the operation and will grow the business through acquisitions that could not be made within the existing employee ownership structure. Growth in Sparta’s markets has been running in double digits but is now slowing, which forms the basis for acquisition-based growth in market share. In 2006, it generated revenue of just under $300m and operating profit of $28.6m. Cobham set aside £600m for US acquisitions. In December, it said it would buy BAE Systems’ US surveillance and attack business for $240m and this month completed the $38m acquisition of an au

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