updated 10/19/2004 5:00:32 PM ET 2004-10-19T21:00:32

Motorola Inc., the largest U.S. cellphone maker, more than quadrupled its third-quarter earnings to $479 million thanks largely to new handsets that boosted its sales by 26 percent.

The results reported Tuesday slightly outpaced analysts’ expectations and marked a third consecutive quarter of strong sales and profit gains for the Schaumburg, Ill.-based company.

Net earnings for the July-through-September quarter were $479 million, or 20 cents per share, compared with $116 million, or 5 cents per share, a year earlier. That was a penny per share better than the consensus estimate of analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call.

Revenues were $8.62 billion, up from $6.83 billion a year ago and about what Wall Street anticipated.

The cellphone division, the company’s biggest business, recorded a 34 percent jump in sales and had $390 million in operating earnings to account for the bulk of Motorola’s profits. The unit shipped 23.3 million handsets during the quarter, up 15 percent from the same period of 2003 but slightly less than some analysts had forecast.

Motorola said it began shipping 17 new phones in the quarter — 15 featuring color displays and 11 of them camera-phones — as it tries to regain market share lost to Finland-based Nokia Corp. and other competitors.

The semiconductor business had sales of $1.4 billion, up 17 percent, and operating earnings of $82 million.

The company has been increasingly focused on cell phones after spinning off its chip business as Freescale Semiconductor Inc.

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