General Dynamics Thrives on Combat

Earnings for the fourth quarter are ahead of estimates.
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Defense contractor

General Dynamics

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said revenue increases in each of the company's four major business groups lifted overall fourth-quarter sales by more than $600 million from the same period a year ago.

Earnings rose to $406 million, or $2 a share, from $336 million, or $1.66 a share, in the 2004 quarter. Analysts were predicting a profit of $1.97. Revenue climbed to $5.83 billion from $5.17 billion.

Combat systems sales grew by 23% in the fourth quarter. Revenue from General Dynamics' information systems and technology group was up 12%. The Falls Church, Va., company said revenue at its Gulfstream jet unit rose 13%.

"Free cash flow from operations in the year of approximately $1.8 billion once again represents a very efficient conversion of net earnings into cash, a ratio of 122%," the company said Wednesday. "Backlog year over year remained strong, growing by approximately $400 million; especially notable is the $1.2 billion increase in the aerospace backlog from year-end 2004 to year-end 2005."

For 2006, General Dynamics forecast earnings from continuing operations of $7.80 to $7.85 a share, including the effect of expensing options.

Shares of General Dynamics were down $1.10, or 1%, to $114.70.