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Gloucestershire Business News

Aerospace and defence giant begins to surface from troubled waters

Obligations to report its six-monthly figures have bought an expert in anti-submarine technology to the surface to reveal itself as a firm that could still do better, but is confident is in the future.

Revenues might be down 4.2 per cent from £365.8m to £350.5m and operating profit down 15.2 per cent from £56.5m to £47.9m, but that is not a fair picture of defence and aerospace business Ultra Electronics.

Revealing its latest figures for the six months to the end of June the business, which has a major base in the form of Precision Control Systems at Arle Court in Cheltenham, was positive.

Both of the above figures hide a return to organic growth (4.2 per cent and 1.3 per cent respectively) for a company still held back by cost overruns at its American subsidiary Herley, which delivers parts for Trident nuclear missiles and the F-35 fighter jet.

Significantly its order book grew 18 per cent from £821.1m to £962.2m.

Douglas Caster, Ultra's chairman, called the uplift in orders "very strong".

"Overall we are experiencing improved market conditions," said Mr Caster. "This is particularly so in the US Defence market where Defence Investment Outlays in 2017 were up 5.6 per cent on the previous year and are expected to be up by about the same amount in 2018.

"In the UK Defence market however, in common with other companies, we have continued to experience fiscal tightness as the UK MoD focuses on what I would call big ticket items where expenditure is already committed.

"In the civil aerospace market this continues to be buoyant for us, driven by aircraft production programmes.

"For the first time in a while we are reporting underlying organic growth. Unfortunately, this is masked by currency exchange headwinds but it is a welcome indicator that Group performance is turning around.

"Specific engineering problems at Herley, however, have impacted profit performance so that we are unable to report the matching organic growth in profits which would have occurred without these charges.

Simon Pryce, Ultra's chief executive officer, said: "Ultra is well positioned as we enter the second half. The order book is strong, indeed as strong as it has been for a number of years. We have got good, positive momentum as we exit the first half, and with good order cover for the remainder of the year."

Precision Control Systems (PCS) is a provider of "high integrity control products for aerospace, military vehicle and soldier applications".

Ultra Electronics also specialises in sonar and what are called sonobouys, which are used in anti-submarine warfare.

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