Lockheed Martin Gets a Lift From Overseas

Apr 26, 2011, 15:53 by Greg Stacy

Lockheed Martin got a lift today as the defense contractor said first-quarter continuing operations earnings gained from reduced costs, higher sales volumes and increased overseas demand.

Today Marketwatch reported that the company upped its profit forecast for the full year to a range of $6.95 to $7.25 a share, from $6.70 to $7 per share, mostly as the result of a tax benefit.

Operating margins for the first quarter expanded in three of Lockheed Martin's four business segments, spurring profit growth at the company's electronic and space systems units, which enjoyed higher sales for air and missile-defense technology, especially to customers overseas.

The end of the F-22 jet fighter program did lead to a contraction of margins in Lockheed's aeronautics segment, but it was offset by global deliveries of the C-130J military transport, leaving segment profit flat compared to last year.

"Here we see again an excellent illustration of how international work can stabilize programs, and where additional volume can directly contribute to cost reduction and affordability goals," Lockheed Martin Chairman and Chief Executive Bon Stevens said today during a call with analysts.

Shares of Lockheed were up by 1.6%, to $78.67. In the last year the stock has fallen by about 9%.

Lockheed said that during the first quarter earnings from continuing operations were up to $548 million, or $1.55 a share, from $519 million, or $1.38 a share, a year ago.

Analysts who had been surveyed by FactSet Research said that they were looking for earnings of $1.51 a share.

Sales for the quarter were up from $10.3 billion to $10.6 billion, with healthy revenue growth in the Lockheed's aeronautics and electronics segments.

When discontinued operations and a higher pension expense are included, earnings in the quarter dropped less than 1% to $530 million, or $1.50 a share, from $533 million, or $1.41 a share, a year ago.