B/E Aerospace (BEAV) shares have been caught in the doldrums of late. It could be time for an activist to step in and set the company onto a new course.
Wellington, Fla.-based B/E already weathered one activist incursion, a push by Ralph Whitworth's Relational Investors LLC that resulted in the company spinning its distribution business, KLX Aerospace, out as an independent. Relational is long gone, but shares of B/E have seen little benefit. The company traded at about $49 apiece on Tuesday, June 21, compared to $70 per share at the peak of Relational-related optimism and about $63 per share a month after the KLX split was completed.
Things don't appear to be getting easier for the company. B/E's archrival in its core aviation seat business, Zodiac Aerospace, in recent years has struggled to keep up with demand, angering shareholders and customers. But Zodiac has notched some key wins of late, including the new business class seat for United Continental Holdings Inc. Zodiac Aircraft Interiors in recent quarters has posted better organic growth than B/E, according to UBS research.
B/E is in some attractive markets, benefiting from a continued surge in new commercial aircraft orders while also having strong exposure to the aftermarket. An estimated 40% of B/E's sales are in the aftermarket, including a substantial amount of retrofit contracts, and that market is expected to stay hot through 2017 and into 2018 even if the pace of new plane sales inevitably slows.
As large U.S. airlines have run up against unofficial regulatory caps that limit further consolidation options they are competing increasingly on service and product offering, retrofitting their cabins and offering new opportunities for interiors makers similar to the United Continental order Zodiac recently won.
An activist might push the company to put itself up for sale, betting that a more diversified aerospace contractor like Honeywell International(HON) - Get Report might be interested in acquiring added exposure to the interiors market. With B/E's co-founder (and executive chairman) Amin J. Khoury now in his late 70s, the time might be right for the company to find a partner.
This article originally appeared in The Deal, a sister publication of
focused on deals and dealmakers, on June 15. For more information about The Deal