Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Piper Aircraft sees revenue increase from sales of higher-end models

VERO BEACH — Piper Aircraft Inc. saw revenues increase last year on an upswing in deliveries of its higher-end models.

The company's total deliveries of 136 aircraft were down from 160 the prior year, but the sales of its flagship Meridian increased from 25 in 2010 to 32 last year. As a result, revenue grew by more than 9 percent from $120.2 million to $131.2 million.

Overall, the sales and deliveries of the company's higher end M-class planes — the Meridian, Mirage and Matrix business airplanes — increased from 74 to 82 aircraft.

Piper spokeswoman Jackie Carlon said the company this year is seeing a slight uptick in sales of its trainers, with higher-end sales remaining relatively flat.

She said the company, which currently has 720 workers, doesn't anticipate any employment changes. Company officials for the past few years said their goal is to have production more closely meet demand to avoid large swings in employment levels.

"Piper continues to meet or exceed our internal financial and delivery targets, and we are focused on continuing to balance our production activities with the marketplace. Moreover, increased deliveries of the top-end Piper Meridian and a larger backlog for our overall core products entering 2012 mean that the company is stronger financially than just a year ago or the previous year," Piper President and Chief Executive Officer Simon Caldecott said in a prepared statement.

Carlon said the company continues to expand its presence globally and expects to add two new dealers by the end of this quarter. International sales accounted for 70 of the 136 aircraft sold last year. While overall delivery numbers were down last year, the company said deliveries were still more than 50 percent above what they were in 2009 when the company was feeling the brunt of the econonic downturn.

The company saw a drastic drop in employment following the 2008 downturn. In the summer of 2009, the number of company workers fell below 600. Staffing later grew back to about 850 workers before Piper announced last year it was suspending its light business jet program and laying off more than 100 employees and releasing 55 contract workers.

The reduction in jobs meant the company failed to reach certain employment level benchmarks contained in a financial incentive package signed with the state and county in 2008. As a result, the company may have to pay back part of the $10.7 million it earlier received depending on the outcome of negotiations currently under way between the parties.


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