Lockheed Martin Profit Rises on Patriot Missile Sales

Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT), the No. 1 U.S. defense contractor, on Thursday posted an 8 percent jump in quarterly profit, helped by sales of Patriot missiles and other products made by its electronic systems business.

The Bethesda, Md.-based company, whose weapons and aircraft are staples of the U.S. military, also nudged up its full-year profit forecast, citing new business wins and better operating performance.

Lockheed reported fourth-quarter profit of $372 million, or 83 cents per share, compared with $344 million, or 77 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter.

That beat Wall Street's estimate of 74 cents per share, according to analysts polled by Reuters Estimates.

Its shares rose more than 3 percent in early trading.

"Primary drivers were Aeronautics, which as usual far exceeded Lockheed's guidance, and Electronic Systems," said UBS analyst David Strauss in a research note. "We estimate that Lockheed's forecast calls for 12 percent to 13 percent earnings per share growth."

Sales and profit were chiefly boosted by the company's electronic systems business, which includes maritime equipment for the U.S. Coast Guard and weapons such as the Patriot missile (search), among other products.

"We had a big fourth quarter relative to deliveries of tactical missiles," said Christopher Kubasik, Lockheed's chief financial officer, explaining the quarter's increase in profit.

The results included one-off charges worth 34 cents per share, mostly due to a court decision over a contested waste clean-up contract. That was mostly offset by a benefit of 32 cents per share from reduced tax expenses, after the Internal Revenue Service (search) closed an examination of the company.

Lockheed's net sales rose 11 percent to $9.97 billion, ahead of analysts' forecast of $9.26 billion.

Looking ahead, the company forecast earnings per share of $3.05 to $3.30 for 2005, raising both ends of its range by 5 cents. Wall Street expects earnings before exceptional items of $3.31 per share, although Lockheed says those estimates do not include about 30 cents per share in higher pension costs and stock option expenses, which Lockheed's forecasts do include.

The company also forecast sales of $36 billion to $37.5 billion for the full year. Wall Street expects $36.03 billion.

Lockheed shares were up $1.71 at $56.94 in early trading on the New York Stock Exchange (search).