Virginia’s General Dynamics — A Big Gun in Defense

Arms giant big on both bang and buck


“Virginia is for lovers” — so goes a state slogan that aims to entice tourists into getting romantic in the state’s many attractions. But certainly, Virginia also is for fighters, or at least defense contractors. In addition to Northrop Grumman (NYSE:NOC), the state also is home to giant General Dynamics (NYSE:GD).

And few companies could be more associated with weaponry and other instruments of warfare than General Dynamics.

Considering that the U.S. is the world’s leading arms maker, one could argue that the nation’s defense contractors are emblems of America’s industrial might and military dominance.

Maybe Virginia is a leading player in that industry thanks to its hosting of the Pentagon and proximity to Washington, D.C. After all, another major defense contractor, Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT), lies just beyond the state line in Bethesda, Md. For whatever reason, Virginia has a good deal of big guns in the military business, and lots of that is thanks to General Dynamics.

GD has grown through the years via an aggressive acquisitions strategy, starting in 1952 with the combination of Electric Boat and Convair. In the 1990s, it added combat-related vehicles, shipyards, IT companies and Gulfstream Aerospace. In the period since, GD has added more than 60 other businesses, including six in 2011.

Notes GD’s corporate website: “Our revenue has grown from $4 billion to approximately $32 billion in that time and our workforce has increased from 29,000 to approximately 95,000 employees today.”

The company now has a global presence. Though mostly in the U.S. and Europe, it also has operations in Asia, South America, the Middle East and Australia. GD’s revenues for full-year 2011 eked up 0.65% to $32.7 billion over 2010’s $32.5 billion, while net income slipped 3.7% to $2.5 billion from 2010’s $2.6 billion. That broke a four-year string of rising annual profits.

Still, that’s a lot of guns from a company that makes its home in a state looking for lovers.

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Mike Mercurio is Managing Editor of InvestorPlace. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.

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