HARTFORD, Conn. (
) -- Industrial conglomerate
, it of Pratt & Whitney engines and Sikorsky helicopters, couldn't help but focus on its operating margins in its third-quarter earnings release.
Unsurprisingly, those margins widened from a year ago, as they have at nearly all big corporations this earnings season. Margins expand as payrolls, of course, contract.
United Technologies thus topped analysts' expectations by a hair: revenue of $13.38 billion, compared with a consensus target on Wall Street of $13.31 billion, and earnings per share of $1.14, two cents better than the average estimate.
Year-over-year, however, every one of the sprawling concern's divisions saw declines on the top and bottom lines. Overall, revenue fell 11% while earnings shrank by 17% from the same period of 2008.
Only the company's Sikorsky unit, maker of the Black Hawk, registered growth, thanks to the Pentagon, which has been amassing arms for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Sikorsky revenue rose 14.6% to $1.65 billion.
The company refined its projection for full-year EPS, pinning the number at $4.10, the middle point of its previously disseminated range of $4.00 to $4.20 a share.
Executive remarks about the direction of an economic recovery were equally cautious. "Order rates for most of our businesses have largely stabilized, although the shape of recovery is still uncertain," said the company's chief, Louis Chenevert, in a statement.
Investors reacted wanly to the news. Toward the end of Tuesday's session, shares of United Technologies, which also makes Otis elevators and Carrier air conditioners, had fallen 17 cents, or 0.26%, to $65.27.
-- Written by Scott Eden in New York
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Scott Eden has covered business -- both large and small -- for more than a decade. Prior to joining TheStreet.com, he worked as a features reporter for Dealmaker and Trader Monthly magazines. Before that, he wrote for the Chicago Reader, that city's weekly paper. Early in his career, he was a staff reporter at the Dow Jones News Service. His reporting has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Men's Journal, the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, and the Believer magazine, among other publications. He's also the author of Touchdown Jesus (Simon & Schuster, 2005), a nonfiction book about Notre Dame football fans and the business and politics of big-time college sports. He has degrees from Notre Dame and Washington University in St. Louis.