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Thiokol Corp. Friday reported a net loss of $39.9 million or $2.12 per share for its third fiscal quarter ended March 31.

The defense and space contractor blamed the loss on a pretax restructuring charge of $61.4 million and a $7.7 million pretax extraordinary loss on early retirement of debt.Last year, Thiokol had net income of $15.4 million or 77 cents per share for the same period.

Thiokol's directors declared a regular quarterly cash dividend of 17 cents per share of common stock, payable June 14 to stockholders of record at the close of business May 31.

Sales for the current third quarter totaled $232.6 million, down 13 percent from sales of $266.1 million in the same period last year. A company spokesman cited a continuing decrease in defense systems sales and decreased Space Shuttle Reusable Solid Rocket Motor (RSRM) sales. Higher fastening systems sales partially offset the decline.

Excluding the restructuring charge and loss on debt retirement, third quarter net income was $14.1 million or 75 cents per share, up 8 percent over last year, a spokesman said.

The spokesman said the drop in income, before the restructuring charge and loss on debt retirement, was due to lower operating levels at the government owned, company operated ammunition plants (GOCOs), lower RSRM sales, lower STAR motor income and a $2 million income tax credit in the prior year.

Despite the loss, Thiokol management was upbeat about the company's prospects.

"We are pleased with the operating performance of each of our core businesses," said James R. Wilson, president and chief executive officer in a prepared statement.

"Space Systems performance was highlighted by continuing cost reductions and margin improvements on RSRM as that program continues to perform with excellent quality and reliability. The Defense Systems restructuring is on plan, and performance on programs continues as expected."

Thiokol's third quarter was boosted by higher RSRM cost management fees and a $3 million pretax reduction in accrued health-care costs due to reductions in personnel.

For the first nine months of the fiscal year, ended March 31, Thiokol's net loss was $14.3 million or 76 cents per share. Year-to-date net income before recognition of the restructuring charge and debt retirement loss was $39.7 million or $2.11 per share, a 10 percent decrease compared to net income of $44.2 million or $2.18 per share last year before recognition of accounting changes.

Sales of $689.4 million for the nine-month period were down 10 percent from $764.5 million last year.