Why Don’t We See A Flood Of A&D Bankruptcies? 航空宇宙・防衛関連企業の大量倒産がみられないのはなぜか?

Spirit Aerosystems assembly floor
Credit: Spirit Aerosystems



Spirit AeroSystems社の社長兼CEO・ Tom Gentile氏は11月のインタビューで、「数社の倒産はあったが、現時点においては驚くほど少ない。文字通り2〜3社だけだ。その理由の一部は、我々がサイクルの中のどこにいるかで説明できると思う。737MAXの飛行停止と、(2019年)12月にボーイング社が発表した生産中断はあまりに急で、我々には反応する時間すらなかった」と話している。

では2021年はどうだろうか?今のところは順調といえる。3大債券格付機関のひとつである、Fitch Ratings社の2020年12月版レポートでは、A&D関連企業によるローンのデフォルト率は、他の製造業と比較して大幅に低い水準に留まると予想されている。







今後の見通しとして同社は、デフォルトのリスクが大きいと考えられる債権発行者が記された、「要注意債権(Top Bonds of Concern)リスト」にはA&D企業はおろか製造業さえ含まれていないと述べた。ただし、同リストよりは財務的な柔軟性が高いグループとされる「準要注意債権(Tier 2 Bonds of Concern)リスト」の2番手には、ボンバルディア社が含まれている。

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As far as positive signs go in 2020, a relative bright spot was the dearth of bankruptcies and clear exits from the aerospace and defense sector by small and medium-sized suppliers. 

In a year that rattled the behemoth Boeing enough to lobby for a $60 billion federal grant for itself and its providers, 2020 seemed destined to start culling the lower tiers—but it did not happen.

“We have seen a couple of bankruptcies, but surprisingly few at this point, only a couple, really,” Spirit AeroSystems president and CEO Tom Gentile noted in a November 2020 interview. “I think part of that, though, is where we are in the cycle. The [Boeing 737] MAX grounding and then the subsequent pause in production that Boeing announced last December [2019] was so quick that we didn’t really have time to react to it.”

What about 2021? So far so good. According to a December 2020 report from Fitch Ratings, one of the big three debt scoring firms, A&D loan default rates are expected to remain materially lower than the broader cross-section of the industrial and manufacturing sectors.

That is not to say A&D is clear of COVID-19 pressures. In fact, financial constraints will only grow in coming years as suppliers work through backed-up inventory, face new purchasing orders that match lower airliner production rates, and labor to meet greater debt payments due to new financing sought during 2020’s liquidity crisis. But the specter of A&D executives stampeding to the courthouse seeking protection should not occur, and as the Fitch report helps illustrate, it is in part thanks to the clubby, ingrained nature of the A&D industry.

“Low default rates result from the long-term nature of many contracts, cost-plus structure of some development contracts and the benefits of sole-source supplier status, coupled with the proprietary nature of many products for certain companies,” the credit analysts said. “Patented technologies and government regulations create barriers to entry, and many companies have a high degree of diversification of product and contracts.”

A 19-year comparison of the annual high-yield bond default rates for the A&D and broader industrial manufacturing sector through 2019 showed 0.9% and 2.1%, respectively, according to Fitch. Those were both “materially” lower than the 3.9% par-weighted U.S. market default rate. For A&D, this period nonetheless included the aftermath of 9/11, the 2008 Great Financial Crisis and Great Recession, the OEM supplier squeezes of the 2010s, the Boeing 737 MAX grounding and production shutdown, and the Trump administration’s trade wars with China and Europe.

Tariffs do produce a drag on profitability, but generally they are a cost that A&D is able to pass on to customers or be absorbed by the large OEMs and Tier 1s. “We have not observed a material number of instances of tariffs having a substantial adverse effect on smaller leveraged issuers,” the analysts said.

Instead, problems are idiosyncratic to companies and begin with poor execution or unfavorable changes to business portfolios, including over-reliance on exposed products. “Fitch anticipates future distress in the sector will be issuer-specific and likely in conjunction with loss of a contract, poor execution or overly aggressive capital deployment,” the firm said.

What is more, “aggressive financial strategies” seemed to play an important role in driving the handful of A&D bankruptcies tracked in 2001-19. Not surprisingly, “several” of the bankrupt companies were owned by private equity and suffered high leverage levels. But “burdensome” contracts also were a driver of court protection. “In some situations, the filer was much smaller than its contract counterparty and lacked negotiating power,” Fitch noted.

Looking ahead, the credit rating firm said there were no A&D or even industrial manufacturing companies on its Top Bonds of Concern list, which identifies debt issuers believed to have significant risk of default. Still, Bombardier is the second-largest issuer on Fitch’s Tier 2 Bonds of Concern list, a group that have more financial flexibility than those on the Top Bonds of Concern list.