Lockheed CEO Sides With Trump Tariffs on China Espionage Threat

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump’s threat to punish China for unfair trade and the “tremendous intellectual property theft situation” roiled investors Thursday, but resonated with defense companies targeted by state-sponsored hackers.

“This is a very important moment for our country, in that we are addressing what is a very critical area for the aerospace and defense industry,” Marillyn Hewson, chief executive officer of Lockheed Martin Corp., said in comments at the White House. She described intellectual property as the “lifeblood of our companies.”

Lockheed CEO Sides With Trump Tariffs on China Espionage Threat

Hewson, who Trump introduced as “Marillyn Lockheed,” stood beside the heads of Raytheon Co., Leidos Holdings Inc. and General Atomics as the president signed an executive memo instructing U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to levy tariffs worth at least $50 billion against Chinese imports. Trump handed Hewson the pen he used for the signing.

Other companies, including 20 of the biggest retailers such as Walmart Inc., had urged against the trade brinksmanship. U.S. stocks tumbled the most in six weeks after the president’s tariff announcement.

Espionage Target

As the world’s largest defense company, Lockheed is no stranger to espionage threats. Su Bin, a Chinese national also known as Stephen Bin, was sentenced to four years in prison in 2016 after pleading guilty to directing Chinese hackers to sensitive documents at major U.S. defense companies. The hackers claimed to have stolen 65 gigabytes of data related to Boeing Co.’s C-17 cargo transport, while also targeting Lockheed’s F-22 and F-35 stealth fighters.

Defense contractors, which had benefited from the so-called Trump Trade last year, were caught in the market downdraft from the threatened tariffs. Lockheed shares fell 2.5 percent, while Raytheon dropped 2 percent, Leidos lost 2.3 percent. Boeing, seen as vulnerable to the economic fallout of rising trade tensions, plummeted 5.2 percent.

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