updated 1/26/2006 8:58:23 AM ET 2006-01-26T13:58:23

Lockheed Martin Corp., the largest U.S. defense contractor, said Thursday fourth-quarter net income grew 53 percent, boosted by one-time gains and higher sales of information technology services and space systems.

The company also said it boosted its earnings guidance for 2006.

Lockheed said profit was $568 million, or $1.29 per diluted share, compared to $372 million, or 83 cents per share, in the year-ago period. Results in the latest quarter reflect a gain of $55 million, or 13 cents per share from the October sale of about 16 million shares of Inmarsat, as well as a gain of $19 million, or 4 cents per share, from the sale of the company's NeuStar investment.

Analysts polled by Thomson Financial, on average, were looking for earnings of $1.15 per share.

Net sales were $10.23 billion, a 3 percent rise from $9.97 billion in the year-earlier quarter, but just under Wall Street's consensus estimate of $10.35 billion.

For 2005, Lockheed reported net income of $1.83 billion, or $4.10 per share, compared with $1.27 billion, or $2.83 per share. Sales were $37.21 billion, up from $35.53 billion last year.

Looking ahead, Lockheed projects 2006 earnings of $4.50 to $4.75 per share, up from its previous guidance provided in October of $4 to $4.25 per share.

The company said the increased outlook is driven by improved operational performance in its Aeronautics segment, a reduction in its pension expense adjustment, unusual gains from the January sale of Inmarsat stock and assets of Space Imaging LLC and the reduction in shares outstanding stemming from continued share repurchase activity. Wall Street is expecting a profit of $4.26 per share.

The company reiterated its guidance for 2006 sales of $38 billion to $39.5 billion. The consensus analyst estimate for sales is $39.30 billion.

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