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BUSINESS NEWS 28 Mar 05

01 Apr 05. Finmeccanica, the Italian defence and aerospace company, yesterday announced a 23.1 per cent increase in operating profit and a trebling of net profit in 2004. Publishing its annual results, the company said that its helicopter, defence electronics and aeronautics divisions were the main drivers of growth last year, and are expected to dominate growth in 2005. The company saw the value of production rise by 8.6 per cent, to €9.3bn ($12bn). Ebitda also improved markedly, reaching €878m. Orders rose by €1.6bn to €10.8bn, with more than 50 per cent of the total coming from the defence sector. Finmeccanica’s order backlog at the end of 2004 was put at €3.6bn and pre-tax profit was €722m, up by €311m on 2003. The results were boosted by the capital gain on sale of part of its stake in STMicroelectronics NV.EBIT rose 11 pct to €518m from €467.0m in 2003, EBITA rose to €614m from €549m, EBITDA grew 11 pct to €878.1m and sales increased to €9.012n from 8.279 bln, the company said. The board is proposing a 30 pct increase in the dividend to €0.013 from 0.01, which chairman Francesco Guarguaglini said in a statement is part of a policy to hike shareholder remuneration. On the 2005 outlook, Finmeccanica said the acquisition of the avionics activities from BAE Systems PLC will involve significant integration costs in order to reach the synergies planned. Other recent acquisitions should further improve the profit capacity of the group and therefore the cash flow, it said. However, spending on developing new production will reduce this year’s cash flow and year-end net debt is expected to be in line with end-2004’s €371m.(Source: FT)

23 Mar 05. Pier Francesco Guarguaglini, CEO of Italian aeronautics group Finmeccanica, says he believes that French defence contractor Thales has an eye on his group and that he would be willing to consider proposals. Mr Guarguaglini said that Thales was trying to avoid an absorption by European aerospace and defence group EADS and that the group was looking for alternatives. Denis Ranque, CEO of Thales, said on March 11 that no negotiations had taken place between the two groups. (Source: Les Echos)

31 Mar 05. Bombardier Inc. posted a quarterly profit on stronger train sales, but its aerospace earnings dropped by half and the company said on Thursday that it would suspend its dividend for its current fiscal year. Bombardier earned $56m, or 3 cents a share, in the fourth quarter ended January 31, in line with analyst estimates. That compared with a loss of $340m, or 20 cents a share, in the year earlier period. Charges were $38m in the latest fourth quarter, compared with $362m a year earlier. Revenues fell to $4.8bn from $4.9bn as sales in aerospace slipped and those for trains rose. Bombardier said it would pay no dividend on common shares for fiscal 2006 because it posted a loss of $85m, or 6 cents a share for its 2005 year. Some institutional investors in Canada had criticized Bombardier for continuing to pay a dividend while seeking $700m of government funding to help pay for the $2.1bn development of its proposed 110- to 130-seat C Series airliner. Bombardier said it had cash and equivalents of C$2.4bn at year end.Profit in its aerospace division fell by half to $78m from $152m a year earlier, while revenues fell 9 per cent to $2.6bn. Aircraft deliveries were 108 in the fourth quarter, compared with 107 a year earlier, and 329 for the full year, up from 324. Business jet deliveries rose 44 per cent while orders were up 69 per cent year over year, but the regional jet market is still challenging, Bombardier said. It expects competition against Brazilian rival Embraer to remain “fierce” in the 70- to 90-seat regional jet market. (Source: FT)

23 Mar 05. Axsys Technologies Inc. said Wednesday after the closing bell that it has signed an agreement to buy Diversified Optical Products for $60m in cash. Diversified Optical is a privately held manufacturer of high-end thermal surveillance came

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