United Tech Profits Surge 20%; Tightens Forecast


Diversified manufacturer United Technologiessaid Wednesday quarterly net profit rose 20 percent, slightly beating Wall Street's expectations, as strong demand from the aviation and commercial construction sectors offset the weak U.S. housing market.

Saying that its outlook remains "generally healthy" outside U.S. housing, the maker of products ranging from Hamilton Sundstrand airplane electronics to Otis elevators raised the lower end of its full-year profit forecast range and said it expects continued earnings growth in 2008.

United Technologies

United Tech reported third quarter net income of $1.2 billion, or $1.21 per diluted share, compared with $996 million, or 99 cents per diluted share, a year earlier.

United Tech shares fell more than 4 percent on the New York Stock Exchange.

Excluding one-time tax-related benefits, the company posted a profit of $1.17, beating the average Wall Street estimate by 1 cent a share, as compiled by Reuters Estimates.

"This continues with the theme that we've seen this year, which is overseas earnings offsetting a weak domestic environment," said Peter Klein, senior portfolio manager at Fifth Third Asset Management, a Cleveland, Ohio-based company with about $20 billion under management that holds United Tech shares.

"The thing that I think people are going to want to find out about is how exposed are they going to be to the weak domestic environment," Klein continued. "Carrier is the focus there, even though they generate a lot of offset from China."

Carrier is United Tech's air conditioner brand.

The Hartford, Connecticut-based company expects recent changes to international tax laws to offset the third-quarter gain of 4 cents in the fourth quarter.

Revenue came to $13.86 billion, up 14 percent from $12.16 billion a year earlier. About 9 percent of that increase was organic, with the remaining 5 percent reflecting the effect of acquisitions and the weak dollar.

The company tightened its full-year profit forecast to $4.22 to $4.25 per share. Previously it had forecast $4.15 to $4.25.

It also said in a slide presentation posted to its Web site that it expects profit to rise by 10 percent to 14 percent next year on mid-single-digit percentage organic revenue growth, which strips out the effect of acquisitions and currency fluctuations.

The world's largest maker of air conditioners and elevators has benefited from continued strong investment in commercial construction and aerospace, though the slump in U.S. housing has pinched its Carrier air conditioning business.

"While market conditions in Carrier's North American residential business are clearly challenging, its other three global businesses delivered double-digit earnings growth," said Chairman and Chief Executive George David.

Carrier's profit fell 2.3 percent, the only one of United Tech's six operating segments to record a decline in earnings.

Residential air conditioner sales represent about 5 percent of United Tech's total revenue.

Prior to Wednesday, United Tech shares were up about 27 percent so far this year, outpacing the about 12 percent gain of the blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average, of which they are a component.