Hechinger Co. reported a 57 percent increase in profits yesterday and a 39 percent sales gain for the first quarter of its fiscal year.

The Washington hardware and lumber center chain said earnings increased to $863,000 (30 cents per share) for the three months ended May 5 from $549,000 (20 cents) a year earlier.

Sales of the 23 Hechinger stores climbed to $33.2 million from $23.9 million.

One of the reasons the sale and profit gain was so big was that last year's first-quarter sales were hurt by bad weather, the company said, noting that "sales in existing stores showed significant increases" this year.

Other local companies reporting earnings yesterday.

Systematics General Corp. of Falls Church said operating income for the quarter climbed to $119,000 (9 cents a share from $33,000 (2.5 cents) for the three months ended March 31.

The engineering services and consulting firm reported revenues for the period of $1.9 million, up from $860,000 a year earlier, and said bookings of new business for the quarter were more than $4 million.

PHH Group Inc. of Hunt Valley, Md. reported its net income for the year ended April 20 increased 23 percent to $12.4 million ($2.04 a share) from $10.1 million ($1.67.)

Revenues increased 38 percent to $197 million from $143 million for the management services firm, which specializes in auto leasing, relocation assistance and expense controls.

PHH Chairman John S. Lalley said the company, whose shares were listed on the New York Stock Exchange last year, has secured a $100 million line of credit that will be used for future growth.