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DEFENSE SECTOR AGAIN BOOSTS COMPTEK'S PROFITS

Comptek Research Inc. stretched its string of rising profits to 11 straight quarters as the West Seneca-based defense contractor continued to reap benefits from its focus on the most profitable parts of its defense electronics business.

Comptek officials announced Wednesday that profits rose by 35 percent as the company continued to focus on higher-margin defense electronics work. This includes products such as electronic warfare systems and sophisticated electronic mission-planning work, where the company tends to be among the leaders in those niche markets.

The company's profits rose to $899,000, or 17 cents per share, from $664,000, or 13 cents per share, a year ago. Sales grew by 41 percent to $24.3 million during the quarter that ended Dec. 25, compared with $17.3 million the year before.

By concentrating on the more profitable parts of its business, Comptek strengthened its gross profit margin to 24 percent during the quarter, compared with 21 percent a year ago. The company's profits have grown by a minimum of 12.7 percent during each of the last eight quarters.

The company's acquisitions, including its pending purchase of Amherst Systems Inc., also are helping Comptek develop a critical mass that will make it a more powerful player in its niche markets and also allow it to become more efficient.

"I think where we are is very good, but I see more margin growth potential, especially in the overseas markets," said John J. Sciuto, Comptek's chairman, president and chief executive officer.

Comptek's sales grew faster than its profits because the company's recent acquisitions have caused its interest expenses to more than quadruple to $453,000 from $98,000 a year ago.

Following Comptek's $20 million acquisition of PRB Associates Inc., a Maryland defense electronics firm, in May, the company's long-term debt soared to $18.4 million at the end of December from $2.56 million at the end of March.

Comptek's long-term debt will increase even more after the company completes its acquisition of Amherst Systems, a leading player in the electronic warfare combat simulation business. But the company hopes to convert most of that debt into Comptek stock during the next year, Sciuto said.

Comptek said it signed a definitive agreement earlier this week to buy Amherst Systems in a deal that is expected to add about $35 million to Comptek's annual sales. The acquisition, which will give Comptek annual sales of $140 million to $150 million and about 1,200 employees, still needs to be approved by federal regulators, but Sciuto said he thinks the deal will be completed by the end of February.

Sciuto, who declined to reveal the purchase price until the deal closes, said Comptek does not expect to make job cuts once the acquisition is completed.

"Just as quickly as we finalize the Amherst Systems acquisition, don't be surprised if we make another acquisition," he said.

Even without Amherst Systems, the company's backlog of orders grew by 64 percent to $150.9 million at the end of December, compared with $91.8 million a year ago.

For the first three quarters of the fiscal year, Comptek's profits rose by 25 percent to $2.35 million, or 45 cents per share, from $1.87 million, or 35 cents per share, a year ago. Sales rose by 29 percent to $68 million from $52.8 million.

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