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UPDATE 3-Lockheed Martin raises 2019 profit forecast, shares jump

Mike Stone

(Adds business unit details)

April 23 (Reuters) - Lockheed Martin Corp reported a better-than-expected 47 percent jump in quarterly profit on Tuesday and raised its annual profit forecast, helped by strong demand for its missiles and fighter jets, sending its shares up more than 5 percent in pre-market trading.

U.S. weapons makers have been expected to benefit from stronger global demand for fighter jets and munitions and higher U.S. defense budgets in fiscal 2020 as they announce first quarter earnings this week.

Lockheed's Missiles and Fire Control business, which makes missile defenses like the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), was one of its best-performing units.

On April 1, the unit was awarded a THAAD interceptor missile contract worth $2.4 billion, some of which are slated to be delivered to Saudi Arabia, which could boost earnings for the current quarter.

Overall, the Bethesda, Maryland-based company said its earnings rose to $1.70 billion, or $5.99 per share, in the first quarter ended March 31, from $1.16 billion, or $4.02 per share, a year earlier. That was partly helped by a $75 million dollar boost from additional tax deductions on foreign military sales.

Excluding that one-time gain, Lockheed reported $5.73 per share profit, well ahead of the $4.34 per share that Wall Street had expected, on average, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Lockheed's overall net sales for the quarter rose 23 percent to $14.34 billion. The company's sales backlog grew to $133.5 billion, up 3 billion over the quarter.

Operating margins at the aeronautics division, Lockheed's biggest, fell to 10.5 percent in the first quarter from 10.8 percent a year earlier, but sales were up 27 percent to $5.5 billion on demand for the F-35 jet and some classified contracts.

The United States is considering expanding sales of Lockheed-made F-35 fighter jets to five new nations including Romania, Greece and Poland as European allies bulk up their defenses in the face of a strengthening Russia, a Pentagon official told Congress in early April. (Reporting by Mike Stone in Washington D.C. and Sanjana Shivdas in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli and Bill Rigby)