Erickson Air-Crane reports 4th-quarter loss

Still, heavy-lift helicopter company finishes 2012 with $15.2 million profit

It may not be as simple as the old saying "to make money you have to spend money," but that's what Erickson Air-Crane did in the fourth quarter of 2012.

The heavy-lift helicopter company, whose primary manufacturing and maintenance operations take place in Central Point, embarked on a move into the medium-lift sector late last year, spending money during what has traditionally been an off-season for the company.

So despite seeing improved fourth-quarter revenue, Erickson Air-Crane reported a loss of nearly $963,000, or 10 cents per share, Monday for the final three months of 2012. Still, the firm finished its first partial year as a publicly traded company with a $15.2 million profit, or $1.56 per share. That compares to 2011 net earnings of $15.9 million, bolstered by an $11.2 million settlement with the IRS in the company's favor.

Erickson shares, which were first traded last April, finished up 52 cents Monday at $14.08.

"Erickson's leadership position in the heavy-lift market continues to strengthen and we are confident in our ability to build our business in related sectors," Udo Rieder, Erickson's president and chief executive officer, said during a conference call.

The company announced plans last year to acquire Air Amazonia aerial services business from Brazil's HRT Participacoes em Petroleo S.A. That process accelerated last week when it announced its binding offer to purchase the medium-lift helicopter operation for between $65 million and $75 million.

"Following the purchase of the Air Amazonia fleet and operations from HRT, we will be poised to greatly accelerate our presence in the booming on-shore oil and gas sector in South America, an important source of strategic growth," Rieder said. "Importantly, we believe we can efficiently service HRT's needs while freeing up nearly half of the acquired fleet of 14 aircraft for other customers, in Brazil and other markets."

During 2012, Erickson grew revenue 18.4 percent to $180.8 million, saw its flight operations increase nearly 19 percent to 12,075 hours and doubled operating Income to $33.4 million.

In the fourth quarter, revenue jumped 27.2 percent to $39.1 million and flight operations were boosted 14.6 percent to 1,766 hours.

During the quarter, Erickson spent $200,000 on its Air Amazonia deal, while roughly half of the period's loss was related to a tax dispute with Greece, where Erickson's copters and crews have been used in firefighting.

Despite that issue, the company's firefighting capabilities continued to be a financial strength.

"Firefighting activity remained strong in the fourth quarter, particularly with the U.S. Forest Service, and our new firefighting contract in San Diego helped drive a strong revenue performance versus prior year," Rieder said.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregMTBusiness, and read his blog at www.mailtribune.com/Economic Edge.


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