Perhaps the most recession-proof industry in the world has logged reduced revenues for 2011, according to an annual study. Arms sales dropped to $410 billion, slightly more than the GDP of Venezuela or Sweden.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) published its 2011 estimates for total arms sales by the top 100 weapons producers in the world on Monday, logging an inflation-adjusted drop of 5 percent in total revenues.
The top 100 companies logged sales of $410 billion (306.5 billion euros) for 2011. Based on CIA World Factbook estimates, arms sales still constitute a figure slightly higher than the 2012 total economic output for Venezuela or Sweden, and a little less than the Philippines or Belgium.
The new tally was also a slight real-terms fall against the 2010 SIPRI estimate of $412 billion.
But SIPRI also noted in its report that "since 2002, arms sales by the Top 100 have nevertheless increased by 51 percent in real terms."
The real global arms sales figure is liable to be markedly higher. SIPRI does not include any Chinese manufacturers in its table, owing to a lack of access to necessary data. The Chinese military budget is the second-largest on earth, only behind the US.
SIPRI said on its website that "several factors" had contributed to the 2011 decrease.
"Austerity policies and proposed and actual decreases in military expenditure as well as postponements in weapons program procurement affected overall arms sales in North America and Western Europe," the think tank wrote.
Usual suspects atop the weapons tree
SIPRI's arms industry expert Dr Susan Jackson said that arms producers and military services companies "have been taking steps to insulate themselves against austerity measures," highlighting the cybersecurity field as a major new area of investment.
US arms giant Lockheed Martin remained top of the 100 main weapons sellers, logging sales of weapons and military services totalling $36.2 billion - 78 percent of the company's total revenue. Boeing's military divisions leapfrogged UK company BAE systems to take second place at $31.8 billion.
European company EADS, primarily controlled by France and Germany, remained in seventh place in the table, selling military produce worth $16.4 billion. That figure constituted just one quarter of total revenues for a company most famous for its Airbus line of passenger planes.
The top 10 producers accounted for significantly more than half of the total sales by the leading 100 companies.
The highest-ranked all-German weapons producer was Rheinmetall ($2.98 billion) up to 26th position from 32nd in 2010. Three other German firms, including steel giant and military ship builder ThyssenKrupp, made the top 65 - with two of them improving their overall position.
The SIPRI Arms Industry Database was created in 1989.
msh/jm (AFP, dpa, Reuters)