(Reuters) - U.S. weapons maker Northrop Grumman Corp (NOC.N) on Wednesday reported higher-than-expected earnings per share for the fourth quarter, despite a drop in sales, citing a big jump in operating income from its electronic systems division and a lower share count.
But it said sales and earnings would drop sharply in 2013, given the mounting pressure on the U.S. defense budget.
Fourth-quarter earnings from continuing operations rose to $2.14 per diluted share from $2.09 a year earlier, far exceeding analyst forecasts. On a pension-adjusted basis, EPS rose 11 percent to $2.06 in the quarter from $1.85 a year earlier. Sales dropped to $6.47 billion in the quarter from $6.51 a year earlier.
Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S had forecast fourth quarter EPS of $1.74.
Northrop forecast sales would drop further to around $24 billion in the full 2013 year, down from $25.2 billion in 2012, while EPS from continuing operations would be around $6.85 to $7.15, down sharply from $7.81 in 2012.
Reporting By Andrea Shalal-Esa; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick