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Astronics stock soars as profits nearly triple

Shares of Astronics Corp. soared 18 percent Thursday after the East Aurora-based electronics company said fourth-quarter profits nearly tripled and full-year profits doubled amid a surge in sales.

Astronics, which makes advanced technology for the aerospace, defense, consumer electronics and semiconductor industries, said its profits jumped to $18.4 million, or 81 cents per share, almost triple the $6.4 million, or 29 cents per share, it earned a year ago. That easily beat Wall Street consensus estimates of 61 cents per share.

Total sales rose 58 percent to $166.1 million.

For the full year, the company said profits more than doubled to $56.2 million, or a record $2.48 cents per share, from $27.3 million, or $1.24 per share, in 2013. Sales leaped 95 percent to $661 million.

“It was obviously a watershed year for the company. It was a lot of things going right in the right direction,” Astronics CEO Peter J. Gundermann said during a conference call Thursday. “We feel that we’ve established great momentum closing out 2014. We’re going to carry that into 2015 and we’ll see where it takes us.”

Investors rewarded the company mightily. At midday Thursday, Astronics shares were up 18 percent to $67.94 per share – a record high for the company, whose stock has never before crossed the $60 threshold.

Astronics said it expects sales this year to grow by about 7 percent to between $680 million and $740 million in 2015, including its purchase in January of Armstrong Aerospace. About $550 million to $580 million will come from aerospace, while the rest is from test systems. As of yearend 2014, it had a backlog of $370.7 million, and expected $321.8 million of that to ship in 2015.

During the fourth quarter, the company benefited from higher sales virtually across the board in its aerospace business, including both commercial transport and business jet markets, which rose 36 percent and 35 percent, respectively, while military sales fell 29 percent. But the big gain came from its Test Systems division, which was transformed by a major acquisition last February and generated $35 million in both commercial electronics and military sales in the fourth quarter.

In all, the $60.6 million sales increase in the fourth quarter included $43.7 million in gains from acquired businesses and $16.9 million in “organic” sales growth from the company’s existing business lines.

Astronics’ sales of aerospace products rose 25 percent to $128.6 million, including 17 percent growth in organic sales, while Test System sales soared more than 12-fold to $37.5 million. Avionics equipment sales more than tripled to $17.3 million, while electrical power and motion sales rose 21 percent to $66 million. Lighting and safety sales rose 4 percent to $36.5 million.

For all of 2014, the $321.1 million increase in sales included $270.4 million from acquisitions and $50.7 million in organic growth, up 14.9 percent. By division, aerospace sales rose by half to $494.7 million, while test systems leaped more than 16-fold to $166.3 million.