* Forecasts 2013 total sales of $31.3 bln to $32.7 bln
* Expects 2013 operating margin in mid-5 pct range
* Sees 2013-2015 production sales growth of $2.2 bln
* Shares up 0.5 pct to C$51.44 on TSX
By Susan Taylor
TORONTO Jan 16 Canadian auto parts manufacturer Magna International Inc forecast stronger 2013 sales and profit margins on Wednesday, reflecting gains from fast-growth markets such as China and Brazil.
Magna, one of the world's largest parts makers with some 286 plants in 26 countries, has pushed expansion outside its core markets of North America and Europe to take advantage of lower operating costs and stronger demand.
"Our outlook reflects the progress we are making in expanding Magna's business outside of out traditional markets," Chief Executive Officer Don Walker said in a statement.
For 2013, the company sees sales of $31.3 billion to $32.7 billion, above its forecast for 2012 full-year sales of $30.3 billion to $31.2 billion.
Analysts expect 2013 sales of $31.87 billion, on average, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Canaccord Genuity analyst David Tyerman said the 2013 guidance is roughly in line with his expectations, but a mid-term forecast was modestly disappointing.
Magna estimates production sales growth of $2.2 billion between 2013 and 2015, lagging Tyerman's estimate of a $2.9 billion increase.
The Aurora, Ontario-based company also said the U.S. Department of Justice has ended an antitrust investigation without taking any action. The probe related to its auto tooling sales. ()
The company, which competes with Johnson Controls Inc and TRW Automotive Holding Corp, sees its 2013 operating margin in the mid-5 percent range.
Total production sales in 2013 are estimated at $26.5 billion to $27.5 billion, above a 2012 forecast of $25.5 billion to $26.1 billion. Production sales are Magna's core business of manufacturing vehicle parts and exclude its smaller vehicle assembly and tooling operations.
Capital spending in 2013 is expected to remain flat, at about $1.4 billion this year.
Magna said it expects 2015 light vehicle production volumes of about 16.7 million units in North America and 12.8 million units in western Europe.
An anticipated 70 percent increase in North American production sales and 40 percent climb in the rest of world will be offset by a 10 percent decline in Europe, the company said.
Magna, which has been trying to turn around European operations after a string of money-losing quarters, surprised markets in the first quarter with profitable operations there.
Restructuring is expected to drive continued improvement in European financial results, Walker said in a statement.
Shares in Magna, which have surged about 25 percent in the past year as earnings improved, rose 26 Canadian cents to C$51.44 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Wednesday.
The company's controversial founder Frank Stronach, an Austro-Canadian billionaire, has launched a eurosceptic Austrian political party after stepping down from the board in November.