(Reuters) - Johnson Controls Inc (JCI.N) said on Tuesday that it will curtail its large automotive interiors business, which lost money in the most recent quarter, and focus under its new chief executive on the company’s faster-growing segments.
Milwaukee-based JCI said it would “explore strategic options” for its automotive interiors business, which Chief Executive Alex Molinaroli said will not be eliminated.
Wall Street cheered the move, driving JCI’s stock up as much as 7 percent to a 12-month high of $45.70. In afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange, JCI shares were trading at $44.97, up 5 percent.
Its automotive interiors business lost $13 million on total sales of $4.2 billion in JCI’s fiscal year 2013, JCI said in its earnings report. Automotive interiors’ revenue represented 10 percent of JCI’s yearly sales.
JCI’s fiscal fourth-quarter earnings met analysts’ expectations with its report of a record net profit. The company said earnings would rise 30 percent in the next quarter, the first of its fiscal 2014.
In a conference call with analysts on Tuesday, Molinaroli said there will not be a single “event” in which the automotive interiors business would be cut.
“It will be more of an ongoing process for us,” said Molinaroli, who four weeks ago replaced Steve Roell as the CEO of the company, whose businesses range from auto parts to power management systems. JCI has about 168,000 employees.
JCI Chief Financial Officer Bruce McDonald said, “We’re not planning on winding down the interiors business,” adding that the company has some plans in the works.
“We have some sticks in the fire. But we are not planning on shutting it down,” McDonald said.
As the company curbs its automotive interiors business, it will add focus on areas that Molinaroli said have the best chances for growth - its automotive battery line and its power management systems for buildings.
The company’s automotive seating business is not part of its “strategic review” of automotive interiors that Molinaroli will conduct.
Seven months ago, Johnson Controls announced it would sell the automotive electronics part of its business. On Tuesday, the company said it will announce details of the sale of the remaining parts of its electronics business by the end of December.
Molinaroli and McDonald said they were making the announcement on Tuesday to give JCI’s employees in the interiors business time to prepare for the changes.
McDonald said the three parts of JCI’s automotive business - seating, interiors and electronics - were put together to serve customers that wanted all three areas together as a source for their vehicles. But now, sourcing for auto parts is more concentrated on the component level.
“The need to have those three product lines doesn’t exist anymore,” McDonald said.
Molinaroli said producing all three of those auto product lines is too complex to continue.
“Whether we divest of that business, or do something else with it, I don’t think it will be harmful to our seating business,” Molinaroli said.
JCI reported a company record net income of $657 million for its fiscal fourth quarter versus $526 million a year ago, excluding restructuring and non-recurring items in the 2013 and 2012 fiscal fourth quarters. Its quarterly revenue was $11.05 billion, up from $10.39 billion a year earlier.
Both quarterly revenue and diluted earnings per share of 95 cents matched expectations of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
JCI expects next quarter’s earnings to rise 30 percent, or 35 percent adjusted for the sale of HomeLink, an automotive electronics business sold in late September to Gentex Corp (GNTX.O).
HomeLink is a vehicle-based system allowing drivers to remotely manage garage doors, home locks, lighting and other security systems. JCI sold it to Gentex for $700 million.
Analyst Ravi Shanker of Morgan Stanley said the fiscal first-quarter earnings projections appeared to be conservative. JCI’s fiscal first quarter runs from October to December.
For the full fiscal year 2013, JCI’s revenue was $42.73 billion, up from $41.955 billion the previous year.
(Corrects fourth paragraph to show interiors unit lost $13 million in year, not quarter; corrects percentage of interiors’ contribution to total revenue)
Reporting by Bernie Woodall; Editing by Maureen Bavdek, Jan Paschal and Dan Grebler