Lear 1Q profit up as global automobile production rises

SOUTHFIELD (AP) -- Auto parts maker Lear Corp. said last Friday that its first-quarter profit more than doubled as global vehicle production improved and seating and electric power management units saw strong sales.

The Southfield, Mich., company also said it expects that automaker production cuts due to a parts shortage from Japan could have a significant impact on the company's second quarter, but it does not expect a significant impact for the full year.

Lear reported net income of $156 million, or $1.44 per share, compared with $66.1 million, or 61 cents per share, in the first quarter of 2010 as the global auto industry recovery was just beginning. Revenue was up 19.5 percent to just over $3.5 billion.

Excluding about $2 million in one-time items including restructuring costs, the company said it made $1.46 per share for the quarter.

The company soundly beat Wall Street estimates. Analysts polled by FactSet expected earnings of $1.15 per share on revenue of $3.3 billion.

Lear said revenue in its seating business were up 18 percent to $2.7 billion for the quarter, while power management systems revenue rose 26 percent to $787 million.

During the quarter, Lear paid a 25-cent-per-share cash dividend, executed a two-for-one stock split and authorized a $400 million share repurchase program, a big turnaround for a company that emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the fourth quarter of 2009.

Lear raised its revenue forecast for the year by $400 million to a range of $13 million to $13.4 million. That mainly reflects a change in the predicted valuation of the euro.

Despite widespread auto company production cuts due to parts shortages caused by the March 11 earthquake in Japan, the company held its prediction for core operating earnings steady at $700 million to $740 million. It raised the pretax income outlook by $10 million, to a range of $655 million to $695 million, reflecting lower interest expensed.

"Despite an uncertain production environment in the near-term related to the disaster in Japan, we believe the industry will continue to grow for the foreseeable future," CEO Bob Rossiter said in a statement.

Published: Mon, May 2, 2011