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Force Protection's Wild Ride

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Force Protection (FRPT) is on a roll lately.

Shares have risen almost 50% over the last month as the Ladson, S.C., manufacturer vies for lucrative orders under the government's armored vehicle contract. But given the competition from deep-pocketed rivals such as Navistar (NAVZ) and British-based BAE Systems, even Force Protection fans have been bracing for a wild ride.

"Based on the fluidity of the Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicle program, we continue to believe that FRPT will be one of the most volatile stocks in the defense industry over the next several quarters," Friedman Billings Ramsey analyst Patrick McCarthy cautioned earlier this month in raising his rating to outperform from market perform. "We expect the news flow to be significantly positive in the near-term, however."

Indeed, even bad news has been positive for Force Protection and its foes of late. They surmounted a potential roadblock in Congress late last week.

On the face of it, the news was bad for the armored car makers. Sen. Joseph Biden -- one of MRAP's biggest supporters -- withdrew his request for $23.6 billion in additional funding for 23,000 MRAP vehicles like those made by Force Protection.

Biden dropped the request after fellow senators questioned whether manufacturers could even produce so many vehicles. But tellingly, the senators opposing Biden's measure also made clear they would support a request for additional MRAP funds when they deem them necessary.
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