By Ankit Ajmera and Mike Stone
(Reuters) – U.S. weapons maker Lockheed Martin reported a better-than-expected third-quarter profit, helped by higher sales in its aeronautics unit which makes the F-35 fighter jet, and raised its full-year earnings forecast.
The U.S. defense sector has fared better compared with other industries amid a slump in demand due to the coronavirus pandemic, as the government has continued to purchase weapons while also providing support to defense contractors to pay the salaries of highly skilled workers.
Lockheed said deliveries of F-35 jets rose to 31 aircraft in the quarter ended Sept. 27, from 28 a year earlier.
Earlier in the year, Lockheed warned of a possible delay in delivery of between 18 and 24 F-35 jets due to a parts shortage as the coronavirus hampered production across the supply chain.
The company said it now expects 2020 earnings per share of about $24.45, compared with its previous forecast of between $23.75 and $24.05 per share.
Lockheed also raised it full-year net sales outlook to $65.25 billion, from $63.5 billion to $65 billion previously.
Lockheed forecast sales in 2021 to increase 3% to at least $67 billion with similar profit margins as the company recovers from the impact of the pandemic.
The Bethesda, Maryland-based company said it assumed the corporate rate would stay at 21%, something U.S. presidential candidate Joe Biden has said he would change if elected. Currently, Lockheed pays taxes at a 14.7% rate.
Net earnings from continuing operations rose to $1.75 billion, or $6.25 per share, in the quarter, from $1.61 billion, or $5.66 per share, a year earlier.
Analysts on average expected Lockheed to earn $6.09 per share, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
Reporting by Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru and Mike Stone in Washington; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri and Bernadette Baum.