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BETHESDA, Md. (AP) _ Lockheed Martin said Tuesday that its first-quarter profit soared from a year ago on higher sales in its military aircraft business and because of an accounting change that reduced the value of year ago earnings.

The defense contractor reported a net profit of $218 million, or 49 cents per share in the first three months of the year. That was up from the same period a year ago, when the company said it earned $105 million, or 25 cents per share.

Last year's profit was reduced by 15 cents a share, though, because of an accounting change and other one-time items.

Excluding discontinued operations, the company had profit from continuing operations of 50 cents a share in the first quarter of 2002, compared with 30 cents a share a year earlier.

Wall Street analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial/First Call were expecting earnings from continuing operations of 47 cents per share.

Lockheed's shares rose $1.40 cents to $60.42 Tuesday in early trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Sales increased by 26 percent in the first quarter to $6 billion, up from $4.7 billion a year ago.

Lockheed also affirmed its guidance for the year, saying it expects to earn between $2.45 and $2.50 per share in 2002.

Lockheed, which makes the F-16 fighter jet and was awarded a government contract last fall to build the Joint Strike Fighter, reported sales of $6 billion in the first quarter, a 26 percent increase over the $4.7 billion in sales in the same period last year.

Much of that was driven by a 56 percent sales jump in the company's aeronautics division. Lockheed said sales were higher in its F-22 fighter jet program and that it delivered two C-130J transport planes during the quarter.

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