Astrotech Shares Jump on Strong Fourth-quarter Report

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PARIS — Astrotech Corp., a provider of satellite prelaunch services at both major U.S. spaceports, on Oct. 15 reported surprisingly strong revenue and operating earnings for the three months ending June 30. The announcement sent the company’s stock soaring 45 percent on the U.S. Nasdaq exchange.

Austin, Texas-based Astrotech, in an Oct. 15 statement and a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), gave little indication of whether it expects to be able to repeat the performance in its current fiscal year, which began July 1.

Astrotech notably did not specify whether the U.S. government shutdown is likely to impact the number of U.S. government satellites being sent to Astrotech for prelaunch processing this year.

The company said it handled eight satellite missions in the 12 months ending June 30, including two major government satellite launch campaigns in the last three months of the year.

“We are proud to release the best earnings report in over three years,” Astrotech Chief Financial Officer Carlisle Kirkpatrick said in an Oct. 15 statement. “Our backlog remains strong and we are encouraged by the diversity we are seeing in new programs now under contract.”

Astrotech’s contract backlog stood at $25.5 million as of June 30.

The fourth-quarter performance — revenue up 21 percent from the same period a year ago, to $9.2 million, and operating profit of $2 million versus a loss of $585,000 — was somewhat diluted in the full-year financial results.

For the year ending June 30, Astrotech reported revenue of about $24 million, down 8.2 percent from the previous year. But it was able to cut operating costs to reduce its operating loss for the year to $559,000 from nearly $2.3 million in 2012.

Astrotech was one of the companies that sustained a blow to its revenue base with the retirement of the U.S. space shuttle, which effectively put Astrotech’s Spacehab microgravity experiment module out of business.

But the company has upgraded its payload processing facilities in Titusville, Fla., near the Cape Canaveral launch base; and at the Vandenberg Air Force Base spaceport in California.

In its SEC filing, Astrotech said its recent business mix has been more on the commercial side but that government contracts still represented two-thirds of the company’s revenue for the fiscal year ending June 30.

Astrotech in May 2011 announced a $16.2 million contract to build, install and test ground support equipment for U.S. government missions. The company said at the time that the contract calls for delivery of the goods and services in the first quarter of fiscal year 2013.

In his statement, Kirkpatrick said the company is now “nearly complete” on the multiyear contract.

Astrotech had $5.1 million in cash as of June 30 and had forecast that at some point in its 2014 fiscal year it would be in breach of its financial covenants with its lenders with respect to debt service coverage and tangible-net-worth commitments.

The company said in its SEC filing that on Oct. 11 it reached agreement with its lenders on amending the loan terms on minimum cash balances that have removed the threat of covenant breach.

After its 45 percent share-price jump on Oct. 15, the company’s stock was trading at 97 cents per share.

Astrotech has won a six-month reprieve from Nasdaq, which requires that its listed companies maintain an average stock price of at least $1 or face a delisting. Astrotech has been given until Nov. 11 to meet the requirement.

 

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