United Tech profit beats forecasts on aerospace jump

  • Industrial conglomerate United Technologies reported a better-than-expected fourth-quarter profit on Wednesday and forecast 2019 earnings above estimates.
  • Shares of United Technologies, which makes Pratt & Whitney aircraft engines, Carrier air conditioners and Otis elevators, were up as much as 7.4 percent.
  • The company is benefiting from robust demand for aircraft parts on the back of a boom in air travel and record global orders for commercial jets.
An attendee looks at an aircraft engine from Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies, on display during the China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, China.
Brent Lewin | Bloomberg | Getty Images
An attendee looks at an aircraft engine from Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies, on display during the China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, China.

United Technologies beat analysts' estimates for fourth-quarter profit on Wednesday, boosted by a more than 20 percent sales surge at its aerospace businesses, sending the industrial conglomerate's shares higher.

Like other major U.S. manufacturers, UTC, a maker of Pratt & Whitney aircraft engines, Carrier air conditioners and Otis elevators, has benefited from a boom in air travel and record global sales of commercial jets.

Revenue growth of 24 percent and 29 percent, respectively, at Pratt & Whitney and airplane parts maker Rockwell Collins, bode well for a planned split next year, whittling down the company to its core aerospace businesses and spinning off the others.

"We are seeing really solid trends in aerospace across the board, with continued (airline traffic) growth and production increases at both Boeing and Airbus," Chief Executive Officer Greg Hayes said on a call.

The plan to split into three parts was greeted with skepticism by investors when it was unveiled last November along with the completion of its purchase of Collins. Shares have fallen 14 percent since.

Wednesday's results pushed shares up as much as 7.4 percent.

Analysts said the strong results and full-year forecast was likely to boost confidence in UTC's ability to improve cash generation and profit ahead of the breakup next year.

"Expectations were low, the stock has underperformed and we believe that street estimates for 2019 (earnings per share) should rise by 5 to 10 cents," Wolfe Research analyst Nigel Coe said.

The company forecast 2019 adjusted earnings per share between $7.70 and $8.00, the mid-point of which is well above the average estimate of $7.80, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Collins' earnings contribution in 2019 is now expected to be 35 cents per share, up from 15 to 25 cents per share previously, largely helped by a better operating performance.

The company expects 2019 sales growth in a range of low to high single digits across all its businesses.

While Otis has suffered in the past from issues around Chinese demand, the company said continued infrastructure spending by the Chinese government would help Otis as well as Carrier in the quarters ahead.

"We do believe that the government's focus on infrastructure spending is going to help the market overall. It's in their interest to try to get the gross domestic product growth above six percent," Chief Financial Officer Akhil Johri said.

On an adjusted basis, United Technologies earned $1.95 per share, above estimates of $1.53.

Net sales rose 15.1 percent to $18.04 billion, beating estimates of $16.91 billion.