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Force Protection in Reverse

For Force Protection (FRPT), the road to riches seems filled with speed bumps.

A new government contract has halted a rally in the company's shares. Late last week, with its stock already fueled by hope, Force Protection emerged as one of three suppliers to win fresh orders under the multibillion-dollar Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicle program. Instead of re-establishing its dominance in the MRAP market, however, Force Protection saw rival Navistar (NAVZ) win the biggest share of the contract.

Force Protection fielded a $377 million order for 800 MRAP vehicles. But Navistar got a $509 million contract calling for 1,000 trucks. Meanwhile, British-based BAE remained in the game with a $323 million order for 600 vehicles.

The Marine Corps expects all of those vehicles to be delivered by April and plans to place even bigger MRAP orders by year's end.

Force Protection will supply one-third of the vehicles ordered under the latest round of MRAP awards. But gains by rivals could undercut some bullish scenarios being elaborated by the company's fans.

"We believe FRPT could receive more than half of 1,500 MRAP vehicles expected to be awarded in the near-term," Dougherty analyst Joe Maxa wrote earlier this month. Moreover, "we believe the company is well positioned to increase its MRAP market share and could account for 40%-plus of the 7,000 MRAP expected orders" through the end of this year.

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