SunTrust Says Trump Will Make Defense Great Again: 5 Top Buys

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Given that our military has long been in decline, and that has emboldened many of our adversaries around the world, President Trump’s vow to rebuild our armed forces has some on Wall Street very bullish. In a November report, the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank, ranked the Army as weak and the other branches as marginal. The report cited decreases in the size of our forces and delays in equipment upgrades in their assessment of the Army.

So what does this mean for investors? In a new research report and sector initiation from SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, the firm is very positive and bullish on defense and the budget cycle. While the analysts are more cautious on the aerospace sector, they are positive on the commercial aftermarket, citing the potential for growth to accelerate as the fleet expands.

SunTrust initiated coverage with Buy ratings on 11 companies, and here we highlight the five favorite picks.

Mercury Systems

SunTrust sees this stock as one of the only pure plays on defense electronics. Mercury Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: MRCY) provides secure processing subsystems for various critical defense and intelligence programs in the United States. Its products and solutions are deployed in approximately 300 programs with 25 defense prime contractors. Its principal programs include Aegis, Patriot, Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program, Gorgon Stare, Predator, F-35 and Reaper.

The company also designs, markets and licenses software and middleware environments under the MultiCore Plus name to accelerate development and execution of signal and image processing applications on a range of heterogeneous and multi-computing platforms. The analysts are looking for multiple expansion and see upside to current guidance and estimates.

The SunTrust price target for the stock is $36, and the Wall Street consensus target is $34.33. Shares closed yesterday at $31.28.

Orbital ATK

This is one of the two publicly traded companies with core rocket propulsion exposure. Orbital ATK Inc. (NYSE: OA) develops and produces aerospace, defense and aviation-related products to the U.S. government, allied nations, prime contractors and other customers in the United States and internationally. It operates through three segments.

The Flight Systems Group develops rockets that are used as small- and medium-class space launch vehicles to place satellites into Earth orbit and escape trajectories; interceptor and target vehicles for missile defense systems; suborbital launch vehicles that place payloads into various high-altitude trajectories; rocket propulsion systems for human and cargo launch vehicles; strategic missiles; missile defense interceptors and target vehicles; composite structures for military and commercial aircraft and launch structures markets; and illuminating flares and aircraft countermeasures.

The Defense Systems Group develops and produces military ammunition; small-caliber commercial ammunition; precision weapons and munitions; high-performance gun systems; propellant and energetic materials; propulsion systems for tactical missiles and missile defense applications; strike weapons; aircraft survivability systems; fuzes and warheads; special mission aircraft; airborne missile warning systems; and defense electronics.

The Space Systems Group offers small- and medium-class satellites that are used to enable global and regional communications and broadcasting; conduct space-related scientific research; and perform other activities related to national security. This segment also provides human-rated space systems for Earth-orbit and deep-space exploration, including resupplying the International Space Station, and spacecraft components and subsystems, as well as specialized engineering and operations services.

The analyst sees the company as a key asset for national security and feel the company has the best valuation in the group.

Shareholders receive a 1.35% dividend. The SunTrust price target is $106. The consensus target is $96.38, and shares closed yesterday at $88.83.

HEICO

This remains a favorite across Wall Street and at SunTrust. HEICO Corp. (NYSE: HEI) designs, manufactures and sells aerospace, defense and electronic related products and services in the United States and internationally. Its Flight Support Group segment provides jet engine and aircraft component replacement parts; thermal insulation blankets and parts; renewable/reusable insulation systems; and specialty components for aerospace and industrial original equipment manufacturers and the U.S. government.

The Electronic Technologies Group provides electro-optical infrared simulation and test equipment; electro-optical laser products; electro-optical, microwave and other power equipment; electromagnetic and radio interference shielding; high-speed interface products; high voltage interconnection devices; high voltage advanced power electronics; power conversion products; and underwater locator beacons.

The analysts see the company as a pure play in the commercial aftermarket and expect the bullish trends to continue lifting shares in 2017.

Shareholders receive a 0.23% dividend. SunTrust has an $85 price objective. The consensus target is $80.86. Shares closed Thursday at $78.21.

Transdigm

This company has been hitting our insider buying screens in a big way recently. Transdigm Group Inc. (NYSE: TDG) is a holding company for different businesses that provide a diverse array of products including ignition systems, pumps, valves, motors, actuators, controls, water faucets and systems, quick disconnects and couplings, batteries, chargers and power conditioning, cockpit security systems, composites and elastomers, audio systems and lighting and displays.

The company trades at a premium to the market multiple, which the SunTrust analysts see as warranted, and they cite acceleration in the commercial aftermarket as one reason. The company also has $1 billion dollars handy, with an eye toward making potential accretive acquisitions.

In the middle of December, we reported that a director at the company stepped in and bought stock in a big way: 91,000 shares for a total near $23 million.

The $291 SunTrust price target is less than the consensus target of $295.44. The stock closed at $251.76.

BWX Technologies

This is the primary manufacturer of nuclear reactors for the Navy. BWX Technologies Inc. (NYSE: BWXT) operates in three segments. The Nuclear Operations segment designs and manufactures precision naval nuclear components and reactors; close-tolerance and equipment for nuclear applications; and components for defense applications.

The Technical Services segment provides uranium processing, environmental site restoration services and management and operating services to support governments in the operation of complex facilities and environmental remediation activities.

The Nuclear Energy segment designs, licenses, manufactures and delivers commercial nuclear steam generators, pressure vessels, reactor components, heat exchangers and other auxiliary equipment, including containers for the storage of spent nuclear fuel.

The analysts cited the company’s strong free-cash-flow as big positive.

The $46 SunTrust price target is in line with the $45.86 consensus target. Shares closed Thursday at $41.49.

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These five top companies are pure plays on the defense industry, and all have long track records of success. Given the run in the sector, investors may want to buy partial positions now and see if we don’t get a market pullback to add the balance.