A UAV helicopter build by Northrop Gruman is on deck aboard the soon to be commissioned littoral combat ship USS Coronado during a media tour in Coronado, California April 3, 2014. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

A UAV helicopter build by Northrop Gruman is on deck aboard the soon to be commissioned littoral combat ship USS Coronado during a media tour in Coronado, California April 3, 2014. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo (Copyright Reuters 2016)

Northrop profit rises 16.7 pct, raises full-year forecast

Markets Reuters

U.S. weapons maker Northrop Grumman Corp reported a 16.7 percent rise in quarterly profit, helped in part by higher sales in its aerospace systems business, which makes the center sections of the F-35 fighter jets.

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The company's shares were up 2.02 percent at $223.96 in premarket trading on Wednesday.

Northrop also raised its 2016 earnings forecast for the third time to $11.55-11.75 per share from $10.75-$11.00 per share.

The company said it now expects full-year sales to be $23.9 billion-$24.1 billion, up from $23.5 billion-$24.0 billion, it had estimated earlier.

Analysts on average had expected 2016 earnings of $11.05 per share, on revenue of $23.82 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Northrop's results come a day after larger rival Lockheed Martin Corp reported better-than-expected quarterly results and lifted its 2016 financial forecasts, partly due to higher sales from the F-35 program.

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The F-35 is the Pentagon's costliest arms program. The U.S. Defense Department expects to spend $391 billion to develop the plane and buy 2,443 of the supersonic, stealthy new warplanes, in the coming decades.

Revenue at Northrop's aerospace systems business increased 9.4 percent to $2.78 billion, in the third quarter ended Sept. 30.

The company's net earnings rose to $602 million, or $3.35 per share, in the quarter, from $516 million, or $2.75 per share, a year earlier. (http://bit.ly/2eR8BSK)

The quarterly profit included a federal tax benefit of $42 million, or $0.23 per share.

Total sales rose 2.9 percent to $6.16 billion.

(Reporting by Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru and Mike Stone in Washington; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)