MADRID Jan 20 (Reuters) - Sales at Spain's Indra (IDR.MC) will grow 5-7 percent this year, well down on growth of 9.8 percent in 2008, a target the technology specialist confirmed it had hit.
However Indra, one of the world's biggest makers of air traffic control systems, said it aimed to preserve 2008 levels of profitability through strict cost controls and by optimising its operating processes.
Indra said in November that 2008 sales for the full year would increase 9.8 percent, or around 2.38 billion euros ($3.09 billion) -- and on Tuesday said it had achieved that aim.
Strong international sales had played a key role in growing sales and would again be its main driver, with double digit growth both in sales and in new contracts, it said.
The Madrid-based firm is seen by analysts as a good defensive pick in the downturn because of its strong order book with governments as well as being international diversified.
Indra, which also develops flight simulators, radar systems and ballot machines, said it would roll forward a 2008 objective to preserve a margin of 11.3 and 11.5 percent on core earnings (EBIT).
"We foresee an more negative economic and sector climate in 2009 than last year," the firm said in a statement.
"Despite this environment, Indra has the potential to continue growing and to continue progressing better than the rest of its sector, and to maintain its current operating profitability."
Indra said new contracts would rise faster than sales, but it did not give a target. In 2008 it successfully targetted a 10.5 percent rise in new contracts it said. That equates to some 2.58 billion euros in new contracts.
Indra posted a 31 percent rise in nine-month net profit in November. ($1=.7705 Euro) (Reporting by Ben Harding; Editing by Hans Peters)