Airbag maker Autoliv sticks with 2019 forecasts, shares rise

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Autoliv, the world’s largest maker of airbags and seatbelts, on Friday published organic sales growth and margin forecasts for 2019 that topped analysts’ estimates, sending its shares higher.

Weak car production, in mainly China and Europe, has put pressure on sales at Autoliv and its rivals since last year.

The company, which competes with Joyson Safety Systems and ZF TRW, reported a first-quarter operating profit of $173 million, down from 243 million a year earlier. This fell short of a $212 million forecast from analysts.

Profits were partly hit by one-off costs of more than $20 million due a labor dispute in Mexico.

The company stuck with its previous forecast for full-year organic growth of 5 percent and an adjusted operating margin of 10.5 percent, above the mean forecast for 4.2 percent and 10.3 percent respectively in an analyst poll.

Autoliv’s Sweden-listed shares were up 3.0 percent by 1107 GMT, compared with a 2 percent drop ahead of the results release.

“Our people did well managing the largest quarterly light vehicle market decline in a decade, and consequently the quarter developed in line with our expectations, excluding the effects of the labor conflict in Mexico,” Autoliv CEO Mikael Bratt said in a statement.

Autoliv said the conflict had now been resolved with production returning to normal levels.

The company said it was able to affirm its operating margin forecast with the help of cost reductions, including a hiring freeze as well as other measures.

Reporting by Johannes Hellstrom; editing by Niklas Pollard and Jane Merriman