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April 21 (Reuters) - Hexcel Corp (HXL.N), a maker of structural materials, posted first-quarter profit above analysts' expectations, helped by strong sales to commercial aerospace, and forecast 2008 earnings at the high end of its prior outlook. Hexcel, which supplies composite materials for Boeing's (BA.N) 787 Dreamliner plane, reported adjusted net income from continuing operations of $22.4 million, or 23 cents a share, compared with $14.8 million, or 15 cents a share a year ago.
Net income was flat at $23.2 million, or 24 cents a share.
Analysts on average had expected the company to earn 20 cents a share, before special items, according to Reuters Estimates.
Net sales rose nearly 22 percent to $344.5 million, coming above analysts' expectation of $314.9 million.
Commercial aerospace sales grew 33.3 percent to $191.9 million.
Boeing recently announced a third delay to its 787 Dreamliner program and Hexcel said that could reduce its near-term outlook for the program.
But Hexcel reiterated its 2008 outlook, citing strong sales and higher first-quarter profit, and said it now expects full-year earnings at the high end of the 90 cents a share to 95 cents a share range it forecast earlier.
Analysts were expecting the company to earn 93 cents a share for 2008. Shares of the Stamford, Connecticut-based company closed up 4 percent at $20.08 on the New York Stock Exchange Monday. (Reporting by Nachiket Kelkar in Bangalore; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier)