STOCKHOLM (Reuters) -- Swedish air bag and seat belt maker Autoliv today reported its first-ever quarterly pretax loss and said it would continue to lose money in the coming months.
Autoliv, the world's largest automotive safety products manufacturer, has been hit by the slump in the auto industry, with many markets in recession and consumers unable to obtain loans to buy cars amid the continuing global credit crisis.
The group, which reports its results in dollars, lost $47 million pretax in the fourth quarter versus a year-ago profit of $149 million. The loss was smaller than the mean forecast for a $56 million loss in a Reuters poll of analysts.
It was the firm's first quarterly pretax loss since it was listed in 1994. The company managed a modest operating profit in the quarter of $13 million excluding one-off items.
CEO Jan Carlsson said that while this might be the first ever loss, it did come at an extraordinary time.
"It is the first time in the history of this company that we have this kind of market situation," he told Reuters.
The company's outlook for the first quarter was gloomy as global car production is seen virtually at a standstill.
"For the first quarter of 2009, the company expects a decline in consolidated net sales of more than 45 percent with organic sales declining by approximately 40 percent," it said.
It expected first-quarter operating margin, excluding restructuring costs, to be in the range of minus 5 to minus 7 percent, and that cash flow would be negative.
"It could be possible to report a positive operating income excluding restructuring costs later in the year, and potentially even for the full year 2009," Autoliv said.
Michael Andersson, analyst at Evli, said the result was roughly as expected, and underlying earnings slightly better.
"Then there is this pitch black guidance," he said, noting that U.S. and Western European car production could decline some 20 to 40 percent in the first quarter.
The automotive forecasting arm of J.D. Power has said it expects car production in Europe -- Autoliv's biggest market -- to drop 16 percent this year, to levels last seen in 1993. The U.S. market is seen easing 13 percent to its lowest in 27 years.
FURTHER COST CUTS
Carlson said he believed restructuring charges would amount to roughly $80 million this year, the same level as last year.
"What we can say is it (cost cutting) will come at the same rapid pace as it did during the second half of last year." He added Autoliv had identified an additional 1,000 jobs to be cut in the first quarter, with more cuts to come later in the year.
Autoliv reported sales of $1.19 billion, down 33 percent from a year earlier and below the poll's mean forecast of $1.22 billion. Stripping out currency translation effects and acquisitions and divestments, sales fell close to 26 percent.
Autoliv ranks No. 24 on the Automotive News list of the top 100 global suppliers with worldwide sales to automakers of $6.80 billion in 2007.