* Q4 revenue $850.3 mln vs $811.5 mln, EPS $1.03 vs $1.01
* Stock up 4.5 percent in Tel Aviv
* Declared dividend of 35 cents per share for the quarter (Adds CEO comments, stock reaction, details)
By Ari Rabinovitch
TEL AVIV, March 11 (Reuters) - Israeli defence electronics firm Elbit Systems expects its cyber defence systems and new commercial products to give the business a big boost in the coming years, it said on Wednesday after reporting a rise in profits.
“Cyber is a very important growth engine, the market is huge,” Chief Executive Bezhalel Machlis told Reuters.
“Today it accounts for tens of millions of dollars, but it could be hundreds of millions in the next several years.”
He forecast similar growth from the company’s aircraft defence systems, in particular a device that can be attached to commercial aircraft to detect and deflect a missile attack using a high-powered laser.
Elbit, Israel’s largest publicly traded defence company, earned $1.03 per diluted share in the fourth quarter, up from $1.01 a year earlier. Revenue rose to $850.3 million from $811.5 million, boosted by strong sales in Latin America and Asia-Pacific.
Elbit’s shares were up 4.5 percent at 274.3 shekels in early afternoon trade in Tel Aviv.
Broker Psagot raised its investment rating on Elbit’s shares to “outperform” from “hold”.
The results, together with “a somewhat more favourable macro-environment for defence spending,” was cause for optimism for the current year, Machlis said.
He also said Elbit has become a more important company in the commercial market with commercial applications based on existing defence technologies accounting for about 10 percent of the company’s sales and expected to reach the “low 20s” within five years.
“We understand the civilian market better than in the past and are reorganising the company to be more focused on civilian applications,” he said.
Such products include a wearable head-up display called Skylens that allows commercial pilots to take off and land in low visibility conditions.
The company is also developing a technology that will allow electric buses to be charged during stops, he said.
Elbit’s backlog of orders rose to $6.27 billion at the end of 2014 from $5.82 billion a year earlier. It declared a dividend of 35 cents per share for the fourth quarter, up from 32 cents in the third quarter. (Additional reporting by Tova Cohen; Editing by Greg Mahlich)