Sparton: Ready to Cash In on the Naval Arms Race

Andrew Shapiro profile picture
Andrew Shapiro

This outstanding article from The illustrates the increasing naval arms race that is evolving in the Asia-Pacific.

This has implications for many defense oriented firms but, for smaller firms making products for this sector, the incremental expenditures can become quite material. Case in point, Sparton Corp. (NYSE:SPA), which has around 25-35% of its revenues generated being the only US-owned (and one of only two producers in the free-world) designer and manufacturer of various sonobuoy products for the US and other free-world navies. The incremental impact of growth to the smaller $60 million market cap Sparton Corp. can be multiples more than to a behemoth $29 billion Lockheed Martin (LMT) or $18 billion Northrop Grumman (NOC).

Sonobuoys are a relatively small expendable sonar system that is dropped/ejected from aircraft or ships conducting anti-submarine warfare. Being a consumable protecting our fleet, as our fleet deploys more in an era of increasing and more diverse submarine threats, sonobuoy use will grow. In fact, a November 2009 investor presentation made by Sparton (see slide 18) highlights projected multi-year growth in the US Navy budget for sonobuoys. In the impending arms race, other countries will increase their use and need of this consumable as well. (Sparton released details on some recent foreign sonobuoy sales contracts here.)

With 10 million shares outstanding and a stock price of around $6/share, a little bit of growth in sonobuoy sales from the increasing arms race, described in the above article, may take Sparton Corp stock a long way.

Disclosure: Long presently with a 13D filing. This author may buy or sell shares at any time.

This article was written by

Andrew Shapiro profile picture
Andrew Shapiro is President of Lawndale Capital Management, an investment manager of small- and micro-cap activist hedge funds for over 29 years, one of the longest periods of experience deploying an activist/relational investment strategy today. In addition to leading Lawndale, Mr. Shapiro has also served as an Officer, Director, or Observer on many boards and debt and equity bankruptcy committees. He was most recently Chairman of the Official Equity Committee in the Premier Exhibitions/RMS Titanic bankruptcy. He also serves as Immediate Past Board Chair/President, Governance/Nominating Committee Chair and on the Investment Committee of the Mill Valley Library Foundation, on whose board he has served for many years and is a Board Member of the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame Northern California. Mr. Shapiro is a long-time member and Board Leadership Fellow of the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD), a member of the Private Directors Association and, via Lawndale, an Associate Member of the Council of Institutional Investors (CII) for almost two decades. Mr. Shapiro has more than three decades of portfolio management and analytically varied experience from a number of buy-side positions, employing a rare combination of credit, legal, equity and workout skills. Prior to founding the Lawndale organization in 1992, Mr. Shapiro managed the workout and restructuring of large portfolios of high-yield bonds, distressed equities and risk arbitrage securities for the Belzberg family office, First City Capital. Before joining First City, Mr. Shapiro was involved in numerous corporate LBO and recapitalization transactions for Manufacturers Hanover Trust and the Spectrum Group, a private equity firm. Mr. Shapiro was selected to the NACD Directorship 100 in 2012, a list of the most influential leaders in the boardroom and corporate governance community. He is a frequent speaker on corporate governance, fiduciary duty and activist investing topics, including on panels for the Council of Institutional Investors, Corporate Directors Forum, Society For Corporate Governance, SEC Advisory Committee on Small Public Companies and the National Investor Relations Institute. Mr. Shapiro has been a faculty member of the corporate governance/director’s education programs of UCLA Anderson and the National Association of Corporate Directors and presents often at several other director education programs. In addition to being a Contributing Author to Seeking Alpha, Mr. Shapiro has received national recognition through feature articles, in Forbes, Barron’s, Institutional Investor and a Business Week article that labeled him “The Gary Cooper of Governance.” Mr. Shapiro received dual JD and MBA degrees from UCLA, where he was an Olin Fellow at the UCLA School of Law and a Venture Capital Fellow at the UCLA Anderson School of Management. Mr. Shapiro received a BS in Business Administration from UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business, where he periodically guest lectures. Mr. Shapiro started Lawndale’s funds in 1993 with only $188,000 under management and, through performance and additional capital, has grown the firm’s managed assets substantially. Lawndale applies a private equity approach through active and relational ownership of public company securities. In most investments, Lawndale plays a constructive relational role by collaboratively working with boards and management teams to help them achieve their strategic and operating goals. In other instances, Lawndale is a direct value-unlocking catalyst, utilizing a range of tools that include aggressively promoting improvements in a company's governance and operational structures, proxy actions, asserting shareowner’s legal rights and taking active roles in restructuring and buyout proposal negotiations.

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