Ceradyne, which manufactures body armor in Lexington, announced quarterly earnings Tuesday that soared year over year.
Overall sales for the second quarter were $145.4 million, up 44.8 percent from $100.4 million in the same period a year ago. The company, based in Costa Mesa, Calif., earned $19.1 million, or 76 cents a share. That's almost triple last year's $6.6 million, or 26 cents a share.
New orders in the quarter were $108.8 million, up from $87.6 million in the same period a year ago.
Revenue from external customers for Ceradyne's Advanced Ceramic Operations division, which includes Lexington's operations, was up more than 60 percent year over year, to $66.6 million in the quarter. The segment had struggled in the past but recently got another boost when the military approved a $36.2 million contract for ESAPI ceramic body armor.
"That order ... wasn't really all that expected," chief executive officer Joel P. Moskowitz told analysts during a Tuesday morning conference call. "It was given by the government more or less as a bridge order to ensure there's continuous flow of products from Ceradyne to the United States Army, as they make determinations on a large three-year ... order, which we believe will be issued in late August or possibly early September.
"So that was a very pleasant order we received."
The performance by the defense segment continued the positive news from earlier this year. For the first half of the year, the segment's sales are $143.3 million, up from $95.5 million in the first half of 2010. In the second quarter, the segment had operating income of $14 million, reversing a year-ago loss of $3.8 million.
The defense market "has really shown surprising strength in 2011," Moskowitz said.