Lockheed Martin Earnings Call Insights: Cash Deployment and Margin Pressure

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Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE:LMT) recently reported its fourth quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call.

Cash Deployment

Jason Gursky – Citi Investment Research: Bruce, I wanted to, if it’s okay, target this question to you, and talk a little bit about cash deployment. I think this big pension contribution that you made here during the quarter may have caught a few of us by surprise. And I was wondering if you could just talk a little bit about whether you contemplated letting us know that this was going to be coming and perhaps why you didn’t. And then also maybe just talk a little bit about long-term capital deployment. And what you see on the horizon with regard to the mix? We just now had a big pension contribution. Does that take that off the table now for a number of years so we can get a much more steady stream of operating cash flow that can be used to deploy either back into the business or back into shareholders through repurchases and dividends?

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Bruce L. Tanner – EVP and CFO: Thanks, Jason. I think you got your money’s worth on that question. So, let’s say where do I start. As for why we did at the end of the year and why we didn’t tell you and did we contemplate it on you, we did a fairly comprehensive study as far as pension analysis are concerned relative to our funding requirements, the expectations in the future, the sensitivity of our plans to asset returns, discount rate changes and the like. You may or may not be aware, we actually sent out in the fourth quarter an offering to our terminated but vested participants in the plan offering to essentially give them lump sum payments in lieu of the pension payments over periods of time when they retired. We got a fairly good return on that, actually reducing some of the volatility and our liability associated with those individuals going forward. We were studying this issue right up until literally the end of the fourth quarter, Jason, and we were studying at the same time the prospects of what was going on in Washington relative to corporate tax reform, and we were speaking to the Board at that time, saying, we think this might be sort of the confluence of a lot of different actions that should result in us potentially making a larger contribution for the pension plan in 2012 in order to, in my words, lock in the deduction at 35%. We do feel there is a strong possibility for corporate tax reform going forward. We think that number could be anywhere from a 25% to 28% rate as opposed to the current 35% and we very much wanted to, as I said earlier, lock in that rate.

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