OKLAHOMA CITY -- Navistar is ready to shift into high gear. If all goes as planned, the Warrenville, Ill., truck maker soon will have something to entice investors beyond the strong demand for its military vehicles. The company is hoping to have audited financial statements by next month, potentially paving the way for a return to the New York Stock Exchange. Navistar announced on Friday that it will issue long-awaited financial reports dating back to 2003 at a big analyst meeting on Oct. 25. Lawmakers are expected to pass a new funding bill providing billions of dollars for Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicles around that time. Navistar's stock, which has already doubled on big MRAP wins over the course of the past year, jumped 4.4% to $61.60 on Friday. Still, Bear Stearns analyst Peter Nesvold sees the potential for major revisions on the way. For starters, Nesvold suspects that Navistar previously capitalized some items that should have been expensed instead. He believes that the company will be forced to shift some off-balance-sheet liabilities onto its balance sheet as well. Ultimately, however, Nesvold is hoping for the best. "It could be a little messy," he admitted on Friday. "On the balance, though, we're inclined to like the upside/downside from here and thus have an upward bias on the stock."
Nesvold is nevertheless maintaining his market-weight recommendation on Navistar's stock for now. His firm makes a market in the company's securities. Fans believe Navistar could enjoy yet another rally in its shares. Navistar has already scored huge orders for its MRAP vehicles, surprising many who had expected rival Force Protection ( FRPT - Get Report) to monopolize the multibillion-dollar program instead. The company now hopes to emerge as a leader in MRAP II as well. Still, due to the controversial nature of the war in Iraq -- and the growing cries for its end -- experts differ on just how many more MRAP vehicles the government will actually buy. Stanford analyst Josephine Millward pegs the number at 7,500, well below current expectations. "This increase will boost the Army's total MRAP demand from 2,800 to 9,000 units, but it is still only about half of the number requested by commanders in theater earlier this year," Millward wrote earlier this month. Clearly, "a fleet size of 14,000 is lower than the 20,000 to 23,000 units that the Street had expected." This week, however, Friedman Billings Ramsey analyst Scott Ellison was still projecting that MRAP demand could "swell to 23,000" vehicles in the end. After buying 6,500 MRAP vehicles already, Ellison predicts that the government will order "at least 15,000" more next year. That said, he sees clear challenges ahead. "We believe that more than $15 billion will be spent in 2008 to address the threat," he concluded. "However, do not be surprised when there are significant production delays, cost increases and tremendous political oversight as the program moves forward." Ultimately, he added, "we anticipate there will be clear winners and losers" under the growing MRAP program.