A contract setback slowed the Force Protection ( FRPT) express Monday. Shares in the South Carolina-based defense contractor dropped 5% on disappointing news about a key contract award. The company's shares, which have risen 30-fold over the last year and were racing toward $25 less than two weeks ago, tumbled 99 cents early Monday to $19.15. The latest slide came after the Marines selected Force Protection as just one of many companies to supply the military with blast-resistant vehicles. Force Protection fans had hoped that the company would snag most of that business for itself. Meanwhile, the company's top executives have been selling stock at a startling rate. For now, Force Protection has been asked to supply the military with a handful of its vehicles, which will be tested before any significant orders are placed. The company hopes to sell the military thousands of its Mine Resistant Ambush Protected, or MRAP, vehicles going forward. Some much larger players -- such as Textron ( TXT), Oshkosh ( OSK) and Armor Holdings ( AH) -- are competing for that business as well. But Force Protection has partnered with a heavyweight of its own, Virginia-based General Dynamics ( GD), in an effort to boost its chances. Fans remain upbeat about the company's prospects as a result. Indeed, SunTrust Robinson Humphrey analyst Chris Donaghey kept promoting Force Protection even after the company's recent setback. He has a buy recommendation and a $31 price target on Force Protection's stock. His firm has business ties to the company.
"Although there was not a large volume order to FRPT -- as many investors have been expecting -- the MRAP vehicle contract is now in place, and we expect FRPT to be a primary beneficiary of this program," Donaghey wrote on Monday. Thus, "we would be aggressive buyers of the stock on any weakness associated with this announcement." Force Protection's own CEO, Gordon McGilton, seems far less confident. Indeed, McGilton has wasted no time cashing out his own stock in the company. Last year, as Force Protection's new leader, McGilton scored 1 million stock options with a strike price of just 72 cents a share. Then last week -- less than a month after those options vested -- McGilton sold his 1 million shares at prices ranging from $19.68 to $20.32. He pocketed nearly $20 million worth of profit in the process. In recent months, Force Protection Chairman Frank Kavanaugh has been dumping huge chunks of company stock as well.