Chattanooga-based Astec Industries plans to increase its sales, service and parts personnel internationally in efforts to stem a weak domestic market as it enters the fourth quarter of the year.

The paving and mining equipment maker released its third-quarter financial results Tuesday, showing increases in revenue, international sales and net income. Domestic sales, however, were down 2.6 percent - $98.6 million, compared to $101.3 million in the year-ago period.

"Domestic revenues continued to weaken during the quarter," said J. Don Brock, Astec's chairman and chief executive. "However, we recovered shortfalls with increases in international sales, which reached approximately 44 percent of our volume and 38 percent year to date. We expect those to exceed 50 percent in the fourth quarter and operate at that level next year."

International sales for the third quarter were $79.3 million, compared to $64.8 million in year-ago period - a 22.4 percent increase.

Astec's largest third-quarter gain was a 124.2 percent increase in net income, with $7.4 million in 2010, compared to $3.3 million in 2009. Brock attributed the boost to downsizing in 2009, more productive fabricating and machine tools, increased parts sales and improved utilization capacity.

The company's revenues improved marginally with a 7.1 percent increase - $177.9 million, compared to $166.1 million in the year-ago period.

Brock said Astec will increase its presence in the mining industry and will grow its product offering in the energy business. He said he anticipates several new products - namely the company's concrete plants, pellet presses, wood pellet burners and drum chippers - to "begin to bear fruit and add profit" for the company within the next two years.

Brock said the company is anticipating flat growth for 2011, but is "cautiously optimistic" of a return to growth. Still in limbo is a federal highway bill, which Brock said would help the company in the coming year if passed.

"It really is just an attitude changer," he said. "Generally we see an improvement in sales within a quarter after a highway bill passes. The longer-term effect, it takes about two years to get the big projects on out. The asphalt customers get the best bang in the first 18 months of the highway bill, but we're not dependent on that next year."

Instead, Brock said the company is anticipating more international sales through its expansion in personnel in places such as Australia, Canada and South and Central America.

Lawrence T. De Maria, an analyst and director of global industrial infrastructure for Sterne Agee in New York, said with no broad turn in the domestic market in sight, Astec is proceeding as it should internationally.

"They can increase the sales force domestically, but that would be like pushing on a string," he said. "That's absolutely the right thing to do by expanding oversees. They have good products, but they need a better global footprint."

De Maria said the company's conservative balance sheet should allow it to weather the unstable domestic market through 2011, but "for right now, it's still a pretty uneven environment."

"There's still nothing to get overly excited about," he said.