Northrop Grumman Profit Rises, Despite Weak Sales

CNBC.com With Reuters

Northrop Grumman reported quarterly earnings thattopped analysts' expectations, sending shares higher on Wednesday, but revenue fell short of estimates.

Northrop Grumman

The defense company delivered fourth-quarter earnings excluding items of $1.85 a share, up from $1.27 per share in the year-earlier period.

Revenue fell to $6.51 billion from $8.61 billion a year ago.

Analysts had expected the company to report earnings excluding items of $1.67 per share on revenue of $6.67 billion, according to Thompson Reuters.

Northrop beat its own profit forecast for the full year, reporting a 17 percent rise in earnings per share of $7.41, up from $6.32 in 2010, with improved performance, lower interest expenses and a lower share count more than offsetting lower sales and higher taxes.

Chief Executive Wes Bush told analysts on Wednesday that the company is "well-aligned" with a new defense strategy unveiled by the U.S. Defense Department, which has a strong focus on intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance and cyberspace as the U.S. military shrinks.

Bush also said that Northrop was disappointed with the Pentagon's cancellation of the Block 30 version of the high-altitude Global Hawk unmanned plane, and would work with the Pentagon to discuss alternatives that were more cost effective.

Earnings per share are expected to drop to between $6.40 to $6.70 in 2012, said the company, which builds unmanned spy planes and other equipment for the U.S. military.

Sales are expected to decline further to between $24.7 billion and $25.4 billion in 2012, the company said.