Tyre firm Nokian Renkaat Q1 beats forecasts

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finnish tyre maker Nokian Renkaat NRE1V.HE on Wednesday reported better-than-expected profits and sales for the January-March quarter, helped by strong demand for its products in Russia and eastern Europe.

Nokian Renkaat’s first-quarter operating profit rose 39 percent from a year earlier to 54.4 million euros ($84.3 million), beating all 11 analysts forecasts in a Reuters poll, which ranged from 42 million to 53 million.

“The first quarter gave a flying start for 2008: sales increased strongly in the company’s core markets, and operating profit saw a clear improvement over the previous year,” Chief Executive Kim Gran said in a statement.

First-quarter sales grew 23 percent to 246.3 million euros, beating the average forecast of 238 million in the poll, but within the range of estimates.

Nokian Renkaat said it was eyeing strong growth in 2008 sales and better results than a year earlier. It added growth in Russia and higher pre-sales of tyres had diminished seasonality for Nokian tyre demand.

Reporting by Tarmo Virki; Editing by Quentin Bryar