Summit Notebook

Exclusive outtakes from industry leaders

AUDIO – GE sees the problems … and the opportunities

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On the first day of this year’s Reuters Manufacturing and Transportation Summit, one of the guests told us of the Chinese theory of the word “crisis” — the symbols for which are a combination of “problem” and “opportunity”.

On Tuesday, Vice Chairman John Rice told Reuters that both sides of the equation were in play for GE, but voiced confidence that the company would be able to hit its marks.

General Electric shares have had a tough run in 2009, but Rice’s comments — first reported by Reuters — did seem to turn the tide for GE on Tuesday, which had been lower on the day, but recently were 4 percent higher.

Rice, who runs GE’s Technology Infrastructure group, was one of the featured speakers at this year’s summit, which continues through Thursday in Chicago.

AUDIO – What’s going on with the economy? Ask a trucker.

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That was the advice from truck manufacturer Navistar International Corp’s CEO Dan Ustian at this week’s Reuters Manufacturing and Transportation Summit in Chicago.

Ustian said the current slowdown has been worse and deeper than expected — even though the trucking industry had a sense that things were starting to go south as far back as 2007.

AUDIO – For the automakers — No Chapter 11, please

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The plans are in.

Now comes the waiting, which, as Tom Petty can tell you, is the hardest part.

Now that General Motors Corp and Chrysler LLC have filed their plans of reorganization to the U.S. government and have started what looks like a long and not-painless process to make themselves smaller, more profitable and better suited to the current U.S. demand for new cars.

For Bill Diehl, chief executive of manufacturing consulting firm BBK, one thing that he would not favor would be a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing by one of the two troubled automakers.

AUDIO – More money, more money, more money…

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The U.S. government is spending a LOT of money these days.

We generally don’t go for the all-CAPS version of words, but in this case, it seemed appropriate. Every day we’re seeing new multibillion-dollar programs being rolled out of Washington, D.C. for everything from bank bailouts to auto companies programs.

But, according to Wick Moorman, chief executive of Norfolk Southern Corp, much more infrastructure spending still needs to be done for the nation’s railroads.

AUDIO-As bad as last time? Yup.

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Trying to game this current recession has been a tricky — and so far, a largely unsuccessful — venture.

Most of us try (at least in the U.S.) to think of it in terms of innings (“If this recession is a baseball game and there are nine innings, where are we?”).

AUDIO – Cash is king

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And for Boeing Co’s customers, saving cash is becoming increasingly important.

It’s long been one of the great mysteries of the defense game about whether companies that make a lot of the stuff used for defense and security, might be able to ratchet down their pricing when, economically at least, it was a rainy day.

AUDIO – Deal making is back! (Um, maybe…)

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There might not be the enthusiasm of a couple of years ago, but some deals in the defense sector might actually get done, according to Thomas Captain, head of Deloitte‘s aerospace and defense group.

Speaking at the annual Reuters Aerospace and Defense Summit in Washington, Captain said there were three possibbilities for deals that he sees in the near future.

AUDIO – Sharpen up those pencils!

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No, it’s not time for a pop quiz.

Instead, for the U.S. government and the many companies that provide its weapons and defense systems, the time is coming to start deciding on priorities and coming to grips with how to finance all of the things that need to be done.

Robert Stevens, CEO of Lockheed Martin, said at the Reuters Aerospace and Defense Summit on Tuesday that he expects a vigorous review  of everything the government buys, flies or uses to defend its shores.

AUDIO – Whither F-22?

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In a time of shrinking budgets and fears for the future, one of the biggest questions of this year’s Reuters Aerospace and Defense Summit was what will happen with the F-22 fighter jet that is made by Lockheed Grumman.

Lockheed Chief Executive Robert Stevens is really the guy we wanted to ask that question and he didn’t shrink from giving a pretty full defense of the jet.

AUDIO – Finding value in tough times

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Executives at this year’s Reuters Aerospace and Defense Summit almost uniformely said that finding critical, and rather immediate, value in mergers and acquisitions was especially important now in a climate of less money available for financing.

But opportunities do exist and can be found after careful hunting, said Alex Dorrian (heard first in this clip), CEO of Thales UK and executive vice president of International Operations for Thales Group worldwide, and Allan Cameron, chairman and CEO of Thales North America.

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