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Bell Helicopter parent company reports $231 million profit

Textron Inc., parent company of Fort Worth-based Bell Helicopter, reported double-digit increases in first quarter profits and revenues Thursday driven largely by continued strong sales and deliveries of Cessna business jets.

Textron reported a profit of $231 million, 18.2 percent higher than the same period a year ago. Total revenues increased 18.7 percent to $3.518 billion.

In a conference call with financial analysts, Chief Executive Lewis Campbell said the company "is off to a good start for the year and we have also created excellent growth opportunities" for the future.

Bell revenues were $574 million, slightly lower than the first quarter of 2007, but profit more than doubled to $53 million. The company took a $25 million charge in 2007 because of cost overruns and problems with the Army’s Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter program.

Bell's order backlog at the end of the first quarter was $5.2 billion, reflecting the first $1.2 billion in V-22 Osprey orders under a new five-year, 167 plane contract.

The $10.4 billion contract, split roughly evenly between Bell and Boeing, was a big step forward for Bell, Textron and the V-22 program, Campbell said.

The multi-year procurement plan "essentially removes funding risk" and allows the company to work on improvements and lowering costs. In addition to the planes on order or anticipated to be ordered under the plan, the government has options to buy another 5 V-22s each year.

Campbell said Bell is continuing to invest significant sums of money in upgrading its production capacity to meet demand for new commercial helicopters and in new product development.

Revenues at Cessna Aircraft Co. increased 29 percent to $1.25 billion. Cessna delivered 95 business jets in the quarter compared to 67 a year ago.

Textron is based in Providence, R.I.