A substantial holiday season pushed Garmin Ltd. to fourth quarter results that exceeded expectations, with profits jumping almost 77% for the period.  Nevertheless, sales and profits for the 2009 full year fell, and Garmin expects to see continued profit declines for 2010 as competition in the personal navigation device market and research costs continue to strain the company.


Garmin reported net earnings of $278.4 million, or $1.38 a share, for the fourth quarter ended December 26, compared to net income of $157.7 million, or 78 cents a share, in in the prior-year quarter.  Fourth quarter revenue rose 1% to $1.06 billion, motivated by a 24% increase in outdoor/fitness products. Operating profits from automotive devices were down 2% for the period.


For the year, Garmin said it earned $704 million, or $3.50 a share, compared with $732.9 million, or $3.48 a share, in 2008. Excluding one-time items, the company said it would have earned $3.53 a share in 2009, compared with $3.42 in the prior year.


Full year revenue was $2.95 billion in 2009, a 15% decrease from $3.49 billion in 2008.


Looking ahead to 2010, Garmin forecast that earnings will decline to between $2.75 and $3.15 a share but revenues will hold steady between $2.9 billion and $3.1 billion, mainly due to the solidarity of non-automotive product lines, as well as sales of the Nuvifone and relationships with vehicle manufacturers to incorporate Garmin devices into future models.


Analysts are looking for 2010 profits of $2.63 a share on $2.8 billion in sales.