* Shrinking U.S., Europe defence budgets weigh on results
* Q1 EBITA 153 mln euros, vs analyst estimate 170 mln euros
* Helicopters, rail lift orders 11 pct to 2.89 bln euros (Adds details on results)
MILAN, May 6 (Reuters) - Italian aerospace and defence group Finmeccanica said on Tuesday first-quarter core earnings fell almost 5 percent to miss analyst expectations, hit by shrinking defence budgets in U.S. and Europe.
Finmeccanica, which is carrying out a restructuring to cut its heavy debt burden and is seeking to expand outside its main Italian, British and U.S. markets, said quarterly orders rose 11 percent to 2.896 billion euros ($4.04 billion) mainly thanks to its helicopters business.
In a statement the state-controlled group said core earnings, or before interest, tax and amortisation (EBITA), fell to 153 million euros, missing an analyst average estimate of 170 million euros. Revenues fell 4.9 percent to 2.946 billion euros.
The state-owned group confirmed targets set in March for the whole year including EBITA rising to 930-980 million euros from 878 million euros in 2013 and revenues falling to 13-13.5 billion euros from 13.7 billion euros.
This is the last set of results under CEO Alessandro Pansa, who will hand over the reins of scandal-hit group to Mauro Moretti, head of Italy’s state railways group and former trade union leader, later in May.
Moretti faces the challenges of completing Finmeccanica’s restructuring ahead of a possible consolidation in the defence industry and investors are keen to know if he will backtrack on plans to sell its rail assets.
In the statement, Finmeccanica said its rail units AnsaldoBreda and Ansaldo STS, which Pansa tried to sell, partly offset the decline in core earnings and contributed to the increase in new orders.
The company holds a conference call at 0700 GMT on Wednesday. ($1 = 0.7177 Euros) (Reporting by Danilo Masoni; Editing by Lisa Jucca)