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Misplaced Comma Costs Lockheed $70M

June 18, 1999 GMT

LONDON (AP) _ A comma in the wrong place of a sales contract cost Lockheed Martin Corp. $70 million, The Financial Times reported Friday.

An international contract for the U.S.-based aerospace group’s C-130J Hercules had the comma misplaced by one decimal point in the equation that adjusted the sales price for changes to the inflation rate, the London-based newspaper said. In Europe, commas are used instead of periods to mark decimal points.

It was a mistake, the newspaper quoted James A. ``Micky″ Blackwell, president of Lockheed’s aeronautics division as saying. But the customer, who Lockheed refused to name, held them to the price.

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``That comma cost Lockheed $70 million,″ Blackwell was quoted as telling the newspaper.

James Fetig, a Lockheed spokesman, said Blackwell was describing the major elements of the C-130J cost increase.

``Blackwell indicated ... the inflation-related impacts, including the effects of the misplaced comma in one contract, accounted for $70 million of $275 million in reduced earnings outlook for the C-130J in 1999,″ Fetig said.

He refused to elaborate. Last week, the company announced that launch failures and problems with the cargo plane and anti-missile programs have hurt their profits.

Lockheed has secured contracts from three countries outside of the United States _ Britain, Italy and Australia _ for its C-130J, the latest version of its Hercules air transportation aircraft.