Charles R. (Chuck) Allen seems to be the kind of person for whom the Reagan administration's economic policies were designed.
As executive vice president, chief financial officer and member of the board of directors of TRW Inc., a diversified industrial giant based in Cleveland, he is the very model of the gray-haired, gray-suited, no-nonsense business executive.
His company is making money and carrying relatively little of the high-interest debt that is burdening other industrial corporations. TRW is spending a record $300 million on capital improvements and research this year. And its stock is trading near its 52-week high.
Allen, however, is less than enthusiastic about the prospects for a national economic recovery or the steps the government has taken to stimulate one.
"We don't see any improvement, really, in any of our markets," he said in an interview yesterday.
Allen said that the recent decline in interest rates is only the result of a lack of demand in a weak economy. If a resurgence in demand should cause a resumption of inflationary pressure, the Federal Reserve Board would "tighten the screws fast," sending rates back up, he said.
Even with the prime rate down to 12 percent at some major banks, "we figure the net cost of capital is still about 15 percent," which means a division manager "has to be able to project a return of 17 percent on any new investment before borrowing can be justified, and that's a very high hurdle," he said.
Allen was in Washington for a luncheon meeting with stock analysts as part of TRW's campaign to raise its public visibility and heighten investor interest in the company's stock. The stock has been selling at about $65 a share this week, well above its yearly low of $45 5/8, but Allen said the surge was part of the general rise in stock prices, not the result of detailed investor analysis of TRW itself.
TRW makes parts and components for the auto and truck, aerospace, aircraft and oil exploration industries, all of which are struggling through hard times.
Meanwhile in Cleveland, TRW Inc. reported that its third-quarter earnings dropped by 29 percent to $59 million ($1.65 a share) from $83 million ($2.42) in the third quarter of 1981. Sales dropped by 4 percent to $1.24 billion from $1.29 billion.
"Sales and profits in high-technology electronics and spacecraft and defense systems remain strong," said a statement from TRW Chairman Ruben Mettler, "but the markets for car and truck components, industrial product lines, and oil well drilling equipment were much weaker in August and September than we previously expected."
Nine-month net income declined by 18 percent to $164.8 million ($4.66) from $201.9 million ($5.88) a year earlier, as sales dropped by 2 percent to $3.92 billion from $4.01 billion.