STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Swedish defense firm Saab reported a bigger than expected rise in quarterly operating earnings on Friday and forecast improving margins and sales in 2019 compared with 2018.
The maker of the Gripen fighter jet said its fourth-quarter operating profit rose to 1.42 billion crowns ($152.56 million), up from 995 million in the same quarter a year earlier, while the operating margin jumped to 12.9 percent from 9.8 percent.
Analysts had forecast an operating profit of 1.28 billion crowns, according to Refinitiv estimates.
“The operating margin strengthened mainly in Aeronautics, which had a higher activity level within the Gripen programs and lower costs related to the development of the T-X trainer,” Saab said in a statement.
The company has developed the T-X trainer aircraft - recently ordered by the U.S. Air Force - with Boeing, while large projects in its backlog include orders from Sweden and Brazil for its Gripen E fighter jet.
The Stockholm-based company forecast 2019 sales growth would be on a par with its 5 percent long-term financial target, and also said it expected its adjusted operating margin would improve this year.
The Saab board proposed a dividend of 4.50 crowns per share for 2018, up from 4.40 crowns a year earlier, but below the 4.90 crowns seen by analysts.
Reporting by Johannes Hellstrom; Editing by Anna Ringstrom and Mark Potter