(Updates with share prices in last paragraph.)
Jan. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Lockheed Martin Corp., the world’s largest defense contractor, forecast a 2013 profit exceeding analysts’ estimates after fourth-quarter earnings declined.
Lockheed said profit for the year will be $8.80 to $9.10 a share on sales of $44.5 billion to $46 billion. The average estimate of 22 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg was a profit of $8.28 a share on sales of $45.3 billion.
Income from continuing operations for the fourth quarter was $569 million, or $1.73 a share, compared with $698 million or $2.14 a share, a year earlier, the Bethesda, Maryland-based company said in a statement today. The average estimate of 21 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg was for a profit of $1.82 a share.
Marillyn Hewson, who became Lockheed’s chief executive officer this month, faces the challenge of protecting the company’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter from budget cuts as Pentagon spending comes under pressure from efforts by Congress and the Obama administration to reduce U.S. deficits.
The F-35 is the Pentagon’s costliest weapons program, and the company reached an agreement with the Pentagon last month on contracts that would ensure continued production of the fighter jet if automatic budget cuts take effect in March.
Still, the company must contend with continued uncertainty from the threatened cuts, Hewson said in the statement. U.S. defense companies confront the prospect of across-the-board cuts in defense spending of $45 billion by Sept. 30 if Congress and President Barack Obama can’t reach agreement on alternative spending reductions.
Lockheed fell 2.7 percent to $93.52 at 10:03 a.m. in New York trading after gaining 16 percent in the past 12 months.
--Editors: Larry Liebert, Michael Shepard