December 8, 2009 / 8:40 PM / in 8 years

General Dynamics sees 2011 as growth year for jet unit

* CEO says new business jet programs to bear fruit in ‘11

* Combat products seen as core to war

* Any acquisitions would be small to mid-size

ATLANTA, Dec 8 (Reuters) - General Dynamics (GD.N) said on Tuesday it expects its business-jet operations to keep improving next year and show growth in 2011 as the global economic recovery strengthens.

“2011 will be a strong year,” Chief Executive Jay Johnson said during a Bank of America Merrill Lynch conference broadcast over the Internet.

Johnson said the Gulfstream jet division will begin recognizing revenue and earnings on both its new large-cabin G650 and G250 mid-size jets in the second half of 2011, “making 2011 a growth year for Gulfstream.”

Sales in the company’s aerospace business are likely to be flat next year “with some reasonable upside,” and Johnson added he expected the segment’s margins to improve.

Johnson also said General Dynamics expects its tanks and ammunition products to be “well represented” as U.S. defense spending decisions are made.

    “Our core programs are integral to the fight,” he said when asked how U.S. President Barack Obama’s plan to deploy 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan would affect the company. “So we will be utilized as we are right now.”

    Johnson said the company expects slower growth from its combat systems segment next year in light of the cancellation of the ground vehicle part of the Future Combat Systems modernization program of the army.

    But he also said the company expected continued growth in its information systems and technology division, bolstered by products that gather and disseminate defense intelligence. He said any acquisitions would likely be small- to mid-size companies that bolster the manufacturer’s core businesses or enable a noncore division to achieve critical mass.

    General Dynamics shares were off 8 cents to $67.80 in late afternoon New York Stock Exchange trading.

    Reporting by Karen Jacobs; Editing by Phil Berlowitz

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