Thursday, May 26, 2011

Austal parent plans to focus on military work

MOBILE, Ala. -- The Australian arm of Austal Ltd., which owns Mobile shipbuilder Austal USA, wants to get out of the commercial ferry business and start defense contracting, company officials announced Tuesday.
The decision will have no impact on Austal's Mobile River shipyard, which is the city's largest industrial employer with a workforce of about 2,100 and growing, said Craig Hooper, Austal USA's vice president for sales, marketing and external affairs.
"We're going to give all the support we can to our Australian counterparts," Hooper said.
The company announced late Tuesday that its profit for the current fiscal year would fall below market expectations. A strong Australian dollar hurt business at its shipyard there by making it more expensive for foreign companies to buy ships, Austal said.
That, in addition to a soft European commercial ferry market, led the company to start a review of its Australian shipyard, with the objective of preparing it to build and repair military vessels, Andrew Bellamy, the company's chief executive officer, said in a written statement.
The company's stock, which trades on the Australian Securities Exchange, dropped 10 percent after the announcement.
Austal USA has won contracts that could be worth about $5.2 billion from the U.S. Navy since 2008. The company says it will eventually employ about 4,000 in Mobile.

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