Zodiac Aerospace shares fell in Paris trading after the maker of aircraft seats cut its earnings forecast for the eighth time in six months, prompting analysts to speculate about a possible sale of the stricken company.
Current operating income in the year ending August 31 will “come in close to” the amount reported last year, the Plaisir, France-based company said in a statement after the stock market closed Tuesday. Analysts predicted 397.6 million euros ($441 million), an increase of 21 percent from last year’s 313.8 million euros, based on the average estimate compiled by Bloomberg.
Zodiac declined as much as 9.9 percent before the stock pared losses as investors who had been betting on a decline reversed those positions on concern that the company may attract a takeover bid, traders said. The shares were priced 1.4 percent lower at 17.51 euros at 10:45 a.m. in Paris.
Zodiac, a supplier to Airbus Group SE and Boeing Co., has failed to meet schedules over the last two years after taking on more work than it was capable of handling. Its difficulties meant delays for airlines taking new planes from both manufacturers. The stock on Feb. 25 slumped 26 percent, the most in 17 years, after the company said a restructuring aimed at halting delays in delivering seats will take longer than estimated.
“The eight reductions in earnings guidance since September 2015 have been entirely due to poor execution,” David Perry, an analyst for JPMorgan Chase & Co. in London, wrote in a report Wednesday. “In our view, the status quo cannot continue. We believe the controlling family shareholders may now take radical action; this may include corporate actions for the company.”
Sales in the first half rose 7.1 percent to about 2.5 billion euros, the company said Tuesday. Excluding currency swings and the effects of acquisitions and divestitures, sales dropped 1.8 percent.
Zodiac Chief Executive Officer Olivier Guy Zarrouati, asked on a conference call with analysts about a possible bid, said the company would welcome a reasonable offer.
“Our history has been to be quite receptive to anything reasonable — being fair to us,” he said. “In past time, we have been in a situation where we had to protect the interest of our shareholders, but we stay very analytic and business-oriented people.”
Zodiac in 2010 rejected a takeover approach from French jet-engine maker Safran SA, saying the companies had little overlap or potential cost savings. Safran decided against making a hostile takeover attempt, and walked away.
Seven families, including that of Zarrouati, have signed agreements to not sell their shares. The group together holds 23 percent of Zodiac’s shares and 36 percent of the voting rights.
Zodiac shares had fallen 50 percent in the past year before today, and traders have been betting on further declines. About 8.3 percent of the company’s shares available for trading have been sold short, the most among European aerospace and defense companies with market values greater than 100 million euros, according to data compiled by Markit Ltd.
“The currently depressed price and strong market positions of the group may indeed attract an acquirer,” Olivier Brochet, a Credit Suisse Group AG analyst in London, wrote in a report.
— With assistance from Blaise Robinson.
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