Most aerospace companies take pains these days to stress how hard they are focusing on their “core” businesses. So the Manitowoc Co. was something of an anomaly during the aerospace presentations at a recent Bank of America investor conference in New York. The Wisconsin shipbuilding company was a major partner on a Lockheed Martin-built prototype for the U.S. Navy’s shallow-water Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program. But Manitowoc CEO Terry Growcock didn’t even get to the LCS until the 27th slide in his presentation. Taking precedence were the company’s booming crane business – a beneficiary of the hot construction market in China - and its food service operation.
So why did the LCS take a back seat to cranes and fruit juice dispensers? One reason may be that the Navy last month canceled a second ship the Lockheed Martin team was building due to soaring costs (a separate two-ship LCS order from General Dynamics was not changed). But it may just be that shipbuilding really isn’t all that important to Manitowoc anymore – the company generates 90% of its sales from the other businesses.
That inevitably led to a question from an investor on why the company bothers to keep the 105-year-old maritime unit. Growcock offered a cautious defense, maintaining that the unit was good for shareholders and didn’t require huge capital investments. But he left the door open to a sale down the road. “We’re not emotionally tied to any of our businesses,” he said.
--Joseph C. Anselmo