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April 23, 2021, 2:07 a.m. EDT

Saab backs guidance, lifted by military orders

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By Dominic Chopping

STOCKHOLM--Saab AB on Friday backed its full-year guidance after reporting an unexpected rise in first-quarter net profit as strong military orders offset the continued downturn in its civil-aviation business.

The Swedish defense company said net profit for the quarter rose to 392 million Swedish kronor ($46.5 million) from SEK334 million, as sales rose 13% to SEK9.09 billion.

A FactSet poll of analysts expected net profit of SEK292 million on sales of SEK8.34 billion.

Saab said it had high activity levels during the quarter in projects such as its Gripen fighter jet, GlobalEye airborne early warning system as well as high level of deliveries of ground combat systems.

Order bookings in the quarter rose to SEK5.87 billion, with analysts looking for a figure of SEK6.1 billion, and the order backlog stood at SEK97.21 billion, up from SEK90.23 billion for the same period a year earlier.

"Apart from international expansion, our priority in 2021 is to increase focus on operational efficiency," Chief Executive Mikael Johansson said.

Saab sees 2021 organic sales growth in line with its long-term goal of 5% while the operating margin is expected to be in line with the 7.4% adjusted earnings before interest and taxes margin it achieved in 2020. Cash flow is expected to be positive in the year, it said.

Write to Dominic Chopping at dominic.chopping@wsj.com

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