* Increases annual dividend by 30 pct
* Solid U.S. government business impresses analyst
Feb 28 (Reuters) - MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates posted a flat quarterly profit from ongoing operations on Tuesday as revenue dipped, but it boosted its dividend by 30 percent and growth at its satellite imaging unit impressed analysts.
The company was hit by a loss of business after the Canadian military, to which it had supplied unmanned drone aircraft, withdrew from combat operations in Afghanistan last year.
The satellite and data distribution company’s fourth-quarter operating earnings from continuing operations were C$31.3 million, down slightly from C$31.7 million earned a year ago.
But U.S. government contract wins for its high-margin geospatial unit - which sells satellite imagery and accounts for roughly one-fifth of total sales - pointed to resiliency, an analyst said.
“It looks like U.S. federal government revenue was especially strong,” said BMO Nesbitt Burns analyst Thanos Moschopoulos. “Margins were better than expected.”
MDA sold its property information business for C$850 million in January last year. In July it announced a C$500 million share buyback and warned that revenue could be flat in 2012 as governments cut spending and projects hit delays.
Net earnings were C$29.2 million, or 91 Canadian cents a share, up from C$3.6 million a year ago, or 9 cents, a year ago.
Revenue at the Richmond, British Columbia-based company, famous for creating the robotic arm used on NASA space shuttles, fell to C$178.2 million from C$208.4 million last year.
Analysts had on average expected MDA to earn 84 Canadian cents a share on revenue of C$181.1 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
The company, which provides surveillance services to corporations, governments and militaries, said it would raise its cash dividend by 30 Canadian cents to C$1.30 on an annualized basis.