Martin Marietta Corp.'s diverse enterprises in construction materials, chemicals and aerospace contributed to soaring profits in the first quarter of 1977 for the Bethesda company, officers told the annual meeting of stockholders here yesterday.
Earnings rose 135 per cent to a record $22.15 million (93 cents a share) compared with $9.4 million (40 cents) in the same period last year, while sales increased nearly 20 per cent to $309.4 million.
"It seems well within our grasp to have the best full year ever," president J. Donald Rauth said. "General economic trends, including the rising levels of activity in housing and some other construction markets, are highly favorable to our various business enterprises."
Rauth told more than 100 stockholders and officials that the first-quarter profits included an "incentive award" fee of $14.8 million paid to his firm in March by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration for work on Project Viking, the successful Mars exploration program for which the local firm was principal industrial contractor.
The after-tax effect of the fee was calculated by Martin Marietta to be 32 cents a share for the quarter but Rauth emphasized that the payment "only made an excellent first quarter even better." Without the fee, first-quarter profits still would have been at a record level.
Martin Marietta's aluminum, chemicals and aerospace operations all produced record results in the 1977 period. Two other divisions -- cement and construction aggregates (sand and gravel) -- normally are weak during the winter quarter but both operated profitably in March, Rauth said.
The "single most crucial matter in our future as a nation" is the need for more energy resources, he declared. "There must be more of it. The nation must commit itself to an energy policy that puts emphasis properly upon efficiency and conservation, but does not accept scarcity as inevitable over the long run."
Backing up this plea, Rauth detailed Martin Marietta's own efforts to achieve energy conservation. Compared with 1972, the company's consumption of energy was cut 15 per cent last year despite a larger network of plants and facilities in energy-intensive industries. Despite this reduction, energy costs doubled to $92 million in 1976 from $45.7 million in 1971.
Rauth said there are limits to what any single business enterprise can do and he expressed concern that industries in the Pacific Northwest have been forced to curtail production because draught led to reduced hydroelectric output.
Martin Marietta's two aluminum smelters in the region are operating at 85 per cent of capacity, a rate of production somewhat higher than other industries there because the company contracted for supplemental thermal power.
Frank X. Bradley, president of the aluminum subsidiary, said an expected upturn in aluminum demand this year can be met despite the cutback because of an inventory buildup last year.