Lockheed Martin [LMT] on Sunday evening just before kickoff at the Super Bowl said it has terminated its agreement to acquire rocket propulsion supplier Aerojet Rocketdyne
[AJRD] following the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s decision in January to seek to block the $4.4 billion deal due to anti-competitive concerns.
“Our planned acquisition of Aerojet Rocketdyne would have benefitted the entire industry through greater efficiency, speed, and significant cost reductions for the U.S. government, James Taiclet, Lockheed Martin’s chairman, president and CEO, said in a statement. “However, we determined that in light of the FTC’s actions, terminating the transaction is in the best interest of our stakeholders. We stand by our long heritage as a merchant supplier and trusted partner and will continue to support Aerojet Rocketdyne and other essential suppliers in the defense industrial base still overcoming the challenges of the pandemic.”
With the deal off the table, investors will be looking to see what Lockheed Martin does with the cash it would have spent on the acquisition. Lockheed Martin does not have to pay Aerojet Rocketdyne a termination fee.
The focus will be where Lockheed Martin and get “the highest return on investment, including our ongoing commitment to return value to shareholders,” Taiclet said. In January, following the FTC’s decision, he said the options for cash include stock repurchases, dividends, internal research and development, capital expenditures, entering joint ventures, and acquisitions. Stock buybacks and dividends have been the company’s top two areas for capital deployment.
For its part, Aerojet Rocketdyne said despite the cancellation of the acquisition, the company is positioned to perform and create value for its shareholders. In a statement, the company said it has delivered returns of 166 percent to its shareholders the past five years prior to the acquisition agreement in December 2020.
“We are confident in our future performance with an impressive backlog that is more than three times the size of our annual sales and a strong macroeconomic environment underpinning our portfolio,” Aerojet Rocketdyne said.
Aerojet Rocketdyne is scheduled to report fourth quarter and full year 2021 financial results on Thursday.
Jefferies aerospace and defense analysts agreed that Aerojet Rocketdyne has an “attractive growth profile” and options to deploy capital. In a client note on Sunday night, the analysts said that over the past few years the company “has effectively streamlined operations through facility consolidation and investments in technology which have let to improved performance and the capture of new business with the current backlog 3 [times] revenues.”
Aerojet Rocketdyne highlighted its work supporting space exploration, and defense work in hypersonics, strategic, tactical and missile defense systems as undergirding its growth prospects.
The FTC is suing to block the acquisition citing the fact that Aerojet Rocketdyne is the nation’s last independent supplier of key missile propulsion components that Lockheed Martin, a buyer of these technologies, could have cut off to other defense contractors that also rely on them for their products. The government also said that Lockheed Martin could have increased the prices of these critical components, while also leaving quality and innovation to suffer.