UPDATE 2-American Axle profit more than doubles, stock up

Fri Apr 29, 2011 12:55pm EDT

* Q1 EPS 50 cents vs Street view 38 cents

* Parts supplier says long-term turnaround plan on track

* Sales outside GM up 44 percent from year earlier (Adds details from conference call, analyst comment)

DETROIT, April 29 (Reuters) - Auto parts maker American Axle and Manufacturing Holding Inc's (AXL.N) first-quarter profit more than doubled as vehicle production increased and it won new business outside General Motors (GM.N) and Chrysler.

The company, which focuses on making axles and other driveline components for trucks and larger vehicles, also said on Friday that full-year revenue could top its earlier estimate if sales of trucks hold steady in a recovering market.

Its shares were up 1.2 percent at $32.30 in early afternoon trading. The stock has been drifting lower since January, in part because of concerns about the threat posed by oil and other commodity costs to the auto sector's recovery.

Net income rose 131 percent to $37.7 million, or 50 cents per share, in the first quarter from $16.3 million, or 22 cents per share, a year earlier. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S had expected earnings of 38 cents per share.

Sales rose almost 24 percent to $645.6 million, above the $593.9 million analysts had expected.

The company said full-year sales could rise to $2.5 billion if trucks and full-size SUVs sell as well in the remainder of the year as they did in 2010.

"We're running substantially ahead of that, but the only thing holding us back a little bit is the uncertainty we all feel with regard to oil prices," Chief Financial Officer Mike Simonte told Reuters.

The company previously forecast full-year sales of $2.4 billion. Analysts on average had been expecting $2.45 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Chief Executive Dick Dauch said the disruption to vehicle production from the Japan earthquake had cost American Axle less than $5 million in lost sales. The company expected to make up that amount in the course of 2011, he said.

NON-GM SALES RISING

American Axle was created when GM sold its axle supply operation to a group led by Dauch in 1994.

The company's heavy reliance on sales to GM drove it to the brink of bankruptcy in 2009 when the automaker was restructured by the Obama administration.

As part of its turnaround plan, American Axle has set a goal of doubling its sales from 2009 levels to about $3 billion by 2013. It also expects to see its sales to automakers other than GM nearly double to 40 percent of sales from just above 20 percent in 2009.

American Axle's sales to customers outside GM, including Nissan Motor Co (7201.T), grew by 44 percent in the first quarter to account for almost 28 percent of revenue.

"The best thing I read was the increase in non-GM sales," said David Silver, analyst with Wall Street Strategies. "It shows the steady progress."

In addition to supplying axles and related components to GM for its trucks and full-size SUVs, American Axle also supplies parts for all-wheel-drive passenger cars made by GM including the Malibu and the Cadillac SRX.

The Detroit-based company has also been investing in electric all-wheel-drive systems that it believes could eventually replace less efficient mechanical systems in a range of vehicles.

(Reporting by Ben Klayman and Kevin Krolicki, editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Ted Kerr)