Cooper Cameron's


third-quarter profit dropped because of weak domestic gas markets, the company said. The results were in line with analysts' forecasts.

The company earned $20.7 million, or 37 cents a share, in the latest quarter compared with $34.4 million, or 60 cents a share, in the year-ago quarter.

Sales fell 8% to $383.3 million from $417.2 million in the year-earlier period. The company said it received $601 million in orders in the quarter, up 26% from last year's $478 million.

Looking to the fourth quarter, Houston-based Cooper expects to earn between 38 cents and 42 cents a share, compared with analysts' consensus estimate of 43 cents a share. The company earned 53 cents a share in the fourth quarter of 2001.

Total 2002 earnings are expected to range from $1.50 per share to $1.54 a share, again falling a penny short of analysts' $1.55 mean estimate and compared with 2001's $1.99 a share.

Separately, the company said its chief financial officer, Thomas Hix, plans to retire by the end of the year; the company is looking for a replacement.

Shares of Cooper Cameron closed at $44.94 Monday on the

New York Stock Exchange