Textron has come far from its roots as a textile company in 1923 with annual revenue of $75,000. In the 1950s, it began a string of acquisitions...

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Textron has come far from its roots as a textile company in 1923 with annual revenue of $75,000. In the 1950s, it began a string of acquisitions outside textiles, turning itself into an industrial conglomerate. This month, it reported $3.52 billion in revenue for just the first quarter of 2008, none from textiles.

Now, Textron gets most revenue from building corporate jets under the Cessna brand. It also makes Bell Helicopters and E-Z-GO golf carts as well as cable installation systems, lawn-care machinery, industrial pumps and components used in precision-guided missiles. Textron even offers financing for customers buying its planes and helicopters. The company’s first-quarter profit of $231 million, or 91 cents per share, topped Wall Street’s expectations. Textron also boosted its full-year earnings forecast due to strong aircraft and defense demand.

Even the raised expectations could prove conservative, based on the strong first-quarter results, says Citi Investment Research analyst Jeffrey Sprague. Cessna orders are growing impressively, he says, while the backlog for Bell helicopters is surging. He rates the stock “buy.”

Cowen and Co. analyst Cai von Rumohr, though, says demand for business jets could slow as the economy sputters. He rates Textron “neutral,” though, saying its order backlog might protect it until 2010.