Ball ( BLL) affirmed its 2003 earnings and sales guidance Wednesday.

The packaging supplier said the update was in response to a query by the New York Stock Exchange about why the stock was falling Wednesday. Its shares were down 4% at $49.24 in afternoon trading.

The company had said in an April 24 press release that it expects 2003 earnings to exceed $3.60 a share. Analysts, on average, expect $3.68 a share.

The company expects sales of about $5 billion, including Ball Packaging Europe, which Ball acquired in December 2002. The company said about $4.5 billion in sales will come from its two packaging segments, and $500 million will come from its aerospace and technologies segment. Analysts expect total sales of $5.2 billion.

The company also said in the April press release that second-half results are expected to be slightly greater than those of the first half. The company earned 55 cents a share in the first quarter, and analysts expect the company to earn $1.18 a share in the second quarter.

"We do anticipate increased demand for some of our products due to the replenishment of various systems expended in Iraq. As a result of that and other opportunities, we expect to see a large increase in our aerospace orders backlog by year end," said R. David Hoover, chief executive of the Broomfield, Colo.-based company, in the April statement.

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