Defense Company Profits Leveled Off But Stocks Soared In 2022

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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Defense companies raked in similar profits on weapons sales in 2022 compared to the year prior despite calls to arm Ukraine and resupply domestic arsenals, but stocks soared, according to data collected by Defense News.

Of the top 100 defense companies in 2022 in terms of revenue, just over half are based in the U.S., including the top three — Lockheed Martin, RTX (formerly Raytheon Technologies) and Northrop Grumman, according to Defense News analysis. However, supply chain disruptions, inflation and higher cost of employees kept revenues down, while U.S. government defense spending remained relatively flat despite additional budgets supporting Ukraine’s efforts to resist Russia’s invasion.

Lockheed Martin topped the list with $63.3 billion in defense-related revenue in 2022, down from $64,458 the year before. RTX made $39.6 billion compared to $41.9 billion in 2022, although it obtains a significantly lower percentage of overall revenue from defense than Lockheed Martin. (RELATED: CEO Of One Of America’s Largest Defense Contractors Says It’s ‘Impossible’ To Stop Relying On China)

Northrop Grumman saw defense revenues increase 3% to $32.4 billion in 2022, stealing Boeing’s third place spot from 2021. Boeing instead made fifth place after reconstituting its defense wing following a slate of losses, delays and unexpected costs.

A Chinese firm, Aviation Industry Corporation of China, made fourth on the list with $31 billion in defense-related revenue for 2022, rising from sixth place in 2021, the list shows.

Total revenues for U.S. companies in the Top 100 hit $534 billion in 2022, Defense News reported.

Investors have been buying more stocks in the 54 publicly traded U.S.-listed firms in the SPADE Defense Index, according to Defense News analysis. The companies reached a total market capitalization of $1.25 trillion last year, and more than 40% of defense stocks saw share prices increase by double-digit percentages.

One way a company can grow its revenue is by merging with or aquiring another, but in 2022, the U.S. government put a stop to large and small mergers and acquisitions on antitrust grounds, according to Defense News. It again blocked Lockheed Martin’s attempts to acquire Aerojet Rocketdyne; instead, L3Harris Technologies acquired the firm.

In addition, the U.S. defense budget at $842 billion for fiscal year 2022 did not authorize major new programs or surge funds into unexpected ones. These factors kept revenues largely static.

The list did not track defense companies based in India, and Defense News relied primarily on think tanks for information about the profits of China-based companies. Three major Chinese firms did not release their data by posting time. Russian companies did not respond to the outlet’s inquiries.

The analysis also overlooks defense-related revenues generated by private firms, which have only in recent years become major players in the defense contracting universe, according to Defense News analysis. Private firms are not required to disclose financial indicators, making revenues from weapons and related sales difficult to track.

Contract data suggests that General Atomics — which produces the Reaper drone — and SpaceX were critical providers for the U.S. Defense Department and other world militaries, according to the outlet.

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