(Adds details, CEO comments)
TEL AVIV, May 17 (Reuters) - Israeli defence electronics firm Elbit Systems reported higher quarterly net profit, boosted by a rise in sales, a growing order backlog and lower financial expenses.
Elbit, Israel’s largest publicly traded defence firm, said on Tuesday it earned $1.22 per diluted share in the first quarter, up from $1.04 a year earlier. Revenue rose to $721.2 million from $706.6 million, with airborne systems accounting for 39 percent.
Elbit’s order backlog at the end of March reached a record $6.8 billion, up from $6.3 billion a year earlier.
“This backlog will be translated into additional revenue and additional profit,” Chief Executive Bezhalel Machlis told Reuters.
The maker of drones, helmet display systems for pilots, electronic warfare and cyber security systems continued to see strong revenue growth in Asia and moderate increases in Europe and Israel. A slight decline in the United States is only temporary, he said.
“We are looking at the backlog and looking at what we expect to happen in the next quarters. We wouldn’t put a lot of weight on the quarterly percentages,” he said.
Sales in Latin America -- whose economies have been hit by falling oil prices and economic turmoil -- ccounted for 8.8 percent of total revenue, down from 12.4 percent a year ago.
“Further down the road, as we analyse our funnel of potential business, we are optimistic it will come back on track two to three years from now,” Machlis said.
In January, Brazilian planemaker Embraer and Elbit’s Brazilian subsidiary AEL said they were shutting down their joint venture to explore the unmanned aerial vehicle market.
Brazil remains an important market and Elbit believes it is well positioned there in the long term, Machlis said.
Elbit declared a dividend of 40 cents a share for the first quarter, unchanged from the fourth quarter. (Reporting by Tova Cohen, Editing by Ari Rabinovitch and Louise Heavens)