Cessna Aircraft Co. posted a $31 million loss in the third quarter of 2010, but the chief of its parent company said he expects the planemaker to turn a profit next quarter.
The loss, reported Wednesday as part of Textron's quarterly earnings, compares with a profit of $32 million in the third quarter of 2009.
For the year, Cessna has lost $52 million. It earned $170 million in the first nine months of 2009.
Cessna revenue was $535 million, down from $825 million in the third quarter a year ago.
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The company delivered 26 business jets in the quarter, compared with 68 in the same period a year ago. Its backlog was $3.4 billion, down by $321 million from the second quarter of the year.
The quarterly results come nearly two weeks after Cessna issued 60-day layoff notices to employees. In September, the company announced it would cut 700 jobs — or 11 percent of its work force — because of continued weak orders.
Cessna employs 6,200 workers in Wichita and 8,600 company wide. That figure is down about half from November 2008.
In a conference call with analysts Wednesday, Textron chairman and CEO Scott Donnelly said he expects "a significant increase" in deliveries in the fourth quarter.
"As a result, Cessna should turn to profitability in the fourth quarter," said Donnelly, who was speaking from the National Business Aviation Association's convention in Atlanta.
Donnelly said the mood of customers at NBAA was improved from 2009.
"I would say, generally speaking, customers appear to be more optimistic than they were a year ago," he said. "It's too early to tell if this marks a turning point."
He said business jet order activity slowed in June but "did pick up somewhat" in September.
The bonus depreciation provision in the recently enacted Small Business Jobs and Credit Act — which applies to business jets — is "certainly a positive factor," Donnelly told analysts, but he isn't certain yet as to how that will affect Cessna's sales.
Sales of new light and midsize business jets continue to be hampered by economic uncertainty in the U.S. and overseas. The customers buying those types of jets — who represent the largest share of Cessna's customers — are still hesitant to buy, though probably not as much as they were a few months ago.
"I still think this has an awful lot to do with confidence," Donnelly said.
But, he added that barring any further shocks to the U.S. or overseas economies such as the European debt crisis, "we still personally feel we'll see better volumes in 2011."
Textron posted a loss in the third quarter of $48 million compared with a $4 million profit in the third quarter of 2009.
The Providence, R.I.-based company attributed the loss to the Textron Financial's asset liquidation in Canada and restructuring charges across the company.