Generally dynamic, General Dynamics is a prime military contractor to the Pentagon (the US government accounts for about 60% of sales). The company's military operations include information systems and technology (information technology and collection, as well as command control systems); marine systems (warships, commercial tankers, and nuclear submarines); and combat systems (battle tanks, wheeled combat/tactical vehicles, munitions, and rockets and gun systems). Its aerospace unit, which is composed of Gulfstream Aerospace and Jet Aviation designs, makes, and refurbishes business jets primarily for civilian customers.
General Dynamics operates around the world, serving government and commercial customers on six continents spanning more than 40 countries. North America represents its largest market, generating 77% of sales in 2015.
Unlike some of its rivals who cater only to the military market that is at the mercy of government budgetary fluctuations, General Dynamics caters to military and civilian sectors, manufacturing both combat systems and high-tech systems, with each side buffering the other in times of market downturn. The Combat Systems division is composed of Armament and Technical Products; European Land Systems; Land Systems; and Ordnance and Tactical Systems.
General Dynamic's Marine Systems group is a major shipbuilder for the US Navy, and it provides MRO (maintenance/repair/overhaul) services to keep those vessels ship-shape. Marine systems manufactures the Virginia-class nuclear-powered submarine, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer (DDG-51), and the Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo/ammunition combat-logistics ship (T-AKE). Subsidiary Electric Boat builds nuclear submarines (Seawolf, Ohio, and Los Angeles classes), while Bath Iron Works builds DDG-51 and DDG-1000 destroyers.
On the civilian side of the business, the company's Aerospace segment produces mid- and large-cabin business jet aircraft, for which the company provides maintenance, refurbishment, and outfitting.
Last, but not least -- serving both the military and civilian sides -- the company's Information Systems and Technology business unit provides cyber security, tactical communication systems, sensors and cameras, ruggedized computers (for use in harsh environments, such as those with strong vibrations, extreme temperatures, and wet or dusty conditions), and antennas to customers in the DoD, the Department of Homeland Security, the intelligence community, federal civilian agencies, and international customers.
Sales and Marketing
General Dynamics' main customer is the US Department of Defense (DoD). The company conducts business with government customers around the world with operations in Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Mexico, Spain, Switzerland and the UK. Throughout 2015, 57% of its revenues were from the US government, 17% came from US commercial customers, 13% from non-US government customers, and the remaining 13% stemmed from non-US commercial customers.
After experiencing years of decreased revenues, General Dynamics saw its revenues climb 2% from $30.9 billion in 2014 to $31.5 billion in 2015. Profits also surged 17% from $2.5 billion in 2014 to peak at a record-setting $3 billion in 2015 due to a decrease in general and administrative expenses.
The growth for 2015 was fueled by a 10% bump in Marine Systems. This was due to higher volumes sold from its Virginia-class submarine program. In 2015, the company completed the ramp-up in construction from one to two Virginia-class submarines per year.
The company has recorded consistent operating cash flow over the years, increasing by 20% in 2014; however, cash flow dipped by 33% in 2015 due to unfavorable changes in customer advances and deposits related to the outstanding receivables from the Ministry of Defense.
With US defense spending in decline, General Dynamics' business strategy addresses programs that the military continues to emphasize, including the need for warfighters and the need to replace resources lost in Iraq and Afghanistan. As the first US submarine to be configured for a post-Cold War defense landscape, General Dynamics' Virginia-class submarine continues to meet the needs of the US Navy.
General Dynamics is also working to tighten up its balance sheet and cut down on costs. In early 2015, the company sold its AxleTech International subsidiary to The Carlyle Group. Also in 2015, the company integrated its two business units, Advanced Information Systems and C4 Systems, into a new Mission Systems business to improve cost competitiveness, leverage the businesses’ complementary capabilities, and increase responsiveness to customers.
Mergers and Acquisitions
General Dynamics in 2016 acquired Bluefin Robotics, a manufacturer of unmanned undersea vehicles (UUVs) that perform a wide range of missions for the US military and commercial customers. The company believes that Bluefin’s advanced underwater technologies and products are aligned with its expertise in undersea system integration. Bluefin Robotics will become part of General Dynamics Mission Systems’ Maritime and Strategic Systems line of business.