updated 10/24/2006 9:13:20 AM ET 2006-10-24T13:13:20

Lockheed Martin Corp., the world's top defense contractor, reported a 47 percent gain in third-quarter earnings Tuesday and raised its outlook for fiscal 2006.

Net income grew to $629 million, or $1.46 per share, from $427 million, or 96 cents per share, a year ago. Sales climbed 4 percent to $9.61 billion.

The results easily beat analysts' expectations for profit of $1.24 per share, but fell short of the sales consensus of $9.83 billion, according to a poll by Thomson Financial.

For the full year, the company now sees earnings per share ranging between $5.45 to $5.60 on sales of $39 billion to $39.5 billion. In July, Lockheed had forecast profit of $5.10 to $5.30 per share on revenue of $38.5 billion to $39.5 billion.

The company said the increase in guidance is driven by operational improvements, primarily in aeronautics, a gain on the sale of land and lower income tax expense. Wall Street is seeking profit of $5.29 per share on higher sales of $39.60 billion, on average.

For fiscal 2007, the company is forecasting profit of $5.60 to $5.80 per share on sales of $41 billion to $42 billion. Analysts currently predict earnings of $5.66 per share on greater sales of $41.31 billion.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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