After years in the doldrums, government services firm ManTech International (MANT) - Get Report appears to finally be on track to resume growth. With a wave of consolidation brewing on the near horizon, the turnaround can't bear fruit soon enough.
Fairfax, Va.-based ManTech has been among the companies hardest hit by both the drawdown in U.S. military operations, where the company provided logistics, communications and troop support. And Congressional budget battles have delayed a number of new procurements.
ManTech's shares have gone nowhere since 2012, trading today at just half of the nearly $60 per share high reached in 2008. That's despite an intensive effort by the company to use M&A to diversify into new areas seen as better able to withstand government budgeting trends, announcing about ten deals in the last five years.
ManTech most recently reported a third quarter that came in shy of Wall Street profit expectations, but analysts saw reason for hope.
Cowen analyst Gautam Khanna said that ManTech appears likely to grow revenue in 2016, reversing a trend that saw sales fall by 46% between 2011 and 2015. At long last the company's in-theater work, which was lucrative in the last decade but has wound down along with active military personnel deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq, has stabilized, while other bookings that ManTech has hoped will offset war revenue are finally coming through.
Management told analysts that ManTech has more than $3 billion in outstanding bids, including more than five new business contracts that would each be worth over $100 million.
ManTech is getting healthy at a good time, as a round of consolidation among government services firms seems increasingly likely in the quarters to come. A combination of greater certainty on government spending allocations, coupled with a decline in margins in the group, is making it a good time for buyers to seek out scale and for sellers to head for the exit.
Deals seem likely among a large group of similarly sized government services vendors including ManTech, Booz Allen Hamilton Holdings (BAH) - Get Report , CACI International (CACI) - Get Report , Science Applications International (SAIC) - Get Report , Engility Holdings (EGL) and Leidos Holdings (LDOS) - Get Report . ManTech for now is at the smaller end of that group in terms of revenue, in line with companies like Vencore and PAE that could be a buyer or a target.
Other related assets are either on the block or could be sold or spun off, including the governments services business of Lockheed Martin (LMT) - Get Report and units of Northrop Grumman (NOC) - Get Report , L-3 Communications Holdings (LLL) - Get Report and BAE Systems (BAESY) .
Deals could include larger merger-of-equals transactions that would create a government services powerhouse, or purchases of assets or of smaller companies.
"The focus for companies is going to be growing in areas of existing strength, in hopes of improving margins," a defense banker said.
U.K. defense giant BAE, which put its U.S. government services arm on the block in April, could announce a deal at any time, sources say, with private equity believed to be the likely buyer. Engility and Providence Equity Partners-backed SRA International meanwhile have already made significant moves seeking scale, with Engility acquiring TASC for $1.1 billion and SRA merging with the government unit of Computer Sciences (CSC) .
Sources say Leidos has also been actively pursuing deals, including talks with BAE over its unit.
Cowen's Khanna says that ManTech is also signaling its desire to be a consolidator, noting that CEO George J. Pedersen "appears disinclined" to raise the dividend or implement a stock buyback and instead "leaving M&A as the focus." The company has about $41 million in net cash, a pristine balance sheet and a $500 million undrawn credit line with which to do deals.
If ManTech is not aggressive, it could be a target of an activist investor that could try to push it to the altar. Bankers say that if the rush of deals comes as expected they could separate the haves from the have-nots, and put companies that don't participate at a significant disadvantage in terms of scale.
ManTech is hoping to get healthy at just the right time.