* Lifts 2018 profit forecast for third time
* Demand for aircraft parts robust
* Shares rise 1.6 pct (Adds quotes from CEO, share price)
By Ankit Ajmera
Oct 23 (Reuters) - United Technologies Corp soothed investor nerves over Chinese approval for its purchase of aircraft parts maker Rockwell Collins, as it announced a stronger-than-expected quarterly profit on Tuesday.
The jet engines-to-air conditioners group, under pressure from activist investors to split itself up, also said it was considering options for a break-up including entertaining interest from third parties to buy any of its businesses.
A decision about a split is now expected by mid-November.
UTC's shares rose 1.3 percent on Tuesday morning amid a broader decline on Wall Street, after the company said Chinese regulators should approve its takeover of Rockwell within weeks.
The closing of the deal, initially expected in September, has been delayed, heightening shareholder concerns that UTC could become a victim of an escalating trade war between the United States and China.
"We've been investing (in China) for years and years. We are a key part of (its) aerospace industry. We just don't see UTC as being caught up in the Sino-U.S. political issues," Chief Executive Officer Greg Hayes said on a conference call with analysts.
"I think as you think about potential M&A opportunities, value-creating M&A, there's always that possibility," Hayes said, referring to mergers in connection with UTC's possible break-up. "The board will be open to all potential opportunities along those lines."
Meanwhile, a boom in air travel on the back of an improving global economy has benefited planemakers Boeing and Airbus, spurring them to place more orders with parts suppliers like UTC and Honeywell.
Both UTC and Honeywell expect higher costs in 2019 as a result of trade tariffs.
UTC said it expects tariff-related expenses to rise about $200 million in 2019, twice its prior estimate.
The company plans to offset rising costs with price hikes as demand remains robust.
"Although the delayed Rockwell Collins closing remains top of the agenda, for the rest of UTC's aerospace and defense business, this quarter was generally surprise-free," Vertical Research Partners said in a client report.
"The double-digit growth on the aero after-market and the pick-up in defense bodes well for other (aerospace and defense) suppliers."
UTC, which also makes Otis elevators, raised its forecast for 2018 adjusted earnings for the third time, to a range of between $7.20 and $7.30 per share from between $7.10 and $7.25.
Sales at its Pratt & Whitney aircraft engines business jumped about 24 percent to $4.79 billion in the third quarter ended Sept. 30.
Overall net sales climbed 9.6 percent to $16.51 billion.
On an adjusted basis, the company earned $1.93 per share, above analysts' average estimate of $1.81, according to Refinitiv. (Reporting by Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Sai Sachin Ravikumar)