By STEPHEN SINGERHARTFORD, Conn. (AP) ¿ Diversified conglomerate United Technologies Corp. said Thursday it will look for merger or acquisition opportunities this year even after it cut its profit guidance for 2009. Chief Financial Officer Greg Hayes said United Technologies' announcement Tuesday that it will cut its share repurchase to $1 billion from $2 billion is "just to keep our powder dry for the M&A opportunities that we see." "We're going to be aggressive this year with mergers and acquisitions," he told investor analysts at a meeting in New York. "We see good value out here, good synergy opportunities and a lot of targets." United Technologies, which owns Otis elevator, jet engine maker Pratt & Whitney, Sikorsky Aircraft and other businesses, tried unsuccessfully last year to acquire ATM maker Diebold Inc. of North Canton, Ohio, for $2.6 billion. The Hartford, Conn.-based company has spent $15 billion for acquisitions since 2000, with $7 billion of that for its fire and security business of which Diebold would have been a part, Hayes said. The company has set aside $2 billion for acquisitions.
CEO Louis Chenevert resisted efforts by analysts to pin him down on details about possible acquisitions. "Obviously, I'm hopeful in this environment that the right things come together and it creates a stronger, better UTC and some of the franchises that we have, it's going to be within the core, within the businesses that we have," he said. Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Chenevert ruled out another attempted hostile takeover of Diebold. Because the economy is far weaker than it was last year, such an attempt would create uncertainty, he said. United Technologies on Tuesday cut its 2009 earnings-per-share forecast to between $4 and $4.50, including restructuring charges. In December, the company forecast a profit of $4.65 to $5.15 per share. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expect 2009 earnings of $4.49 per share. United Technologies also said it will reduce its global work force by 11,600 jobs, or 5 percent. Chenevert told reporters after the meeting that much of the impact of the job cuts will be in the second half of the year.
The company said it expects earnings per share for the first half of the year to be between $1.79 and $1.94 per share. For the second half, earnings are expected to be between $2.21 per share and $2.56 per share. "The second half looks better, not because markets are going to recover dramatically," Hayes said. Cost cutting, "continued good growth" at Sikorsky and United Technologies' fire and security business and other factors will drive a better second half of 2009 than the first half, he said. The greatest drop in operating profit this year is expected at Carrier heating, ventilating and air conditioning. United Technologies said it expects operating profit to drop by between $375 million and $425 million, down from $1.32 billion in 2008. Carrier has been hurt by falling orders in transportation refrigeration and the drop in construction. Operating profit is expected to be down by between $125 million and $175 million at Otis elevator, from $2.48 billion last year. Otis has felt the impact of a slowdown in office construction in China.
Sikorsky, which has benefited from military orders, is projected to increase operating profit by $125 million this year from $478 million in 2008. Shares rose 74 cents, or 1.8 percent, to close at $41.80. ___ AP Business Writer Andrew Vanacore in New York contributed to this report. (This version CORRECTS 2nd graf to correct quote. ADDS more comments. ADDS byline. CHANGES dateline.)