COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) _ Rockwell International Corp. on Tuesday reported third-quarter earnings of $150 million on stronger sales of its factory automation and airplane control equipment.

Rockwell's earnings translated to 77 cents per share and compared to a loss of $420 million, or $2.60 per share, a year ago as the company underwent a costly restructuring that included layoffs and the spinoff of its semiconductor business.

Earnings beat the 75-cents-per-share estimate of analysts surveyed by First Call.

Sales rose to $1.13 billion from $1.12 billion.

Rockwell's businesses include its Automation division, which makes motors and electronic equipment, and the Avionics & Communications divisions, which manufacture display and communications systems. The company also creates systems for companies involved in electronic commerce.

Earnings in Rockwell's automation business grew 14 percent during the quarter. Avionics and communications sales jumped 23 percent, thanks in part to improved markets in the Asia-Pacific region.

For the nine-month period, Rockwell's earnings rose to $427 million, or $2.21 per share, up from a loss of $238 million, or $2.85 per share for the first nine months of 1998.

Nine-month sales came to $3.26 billion, down from $3.39 billion.