Airbag maker Autoliv targets 12% core profit margin in the medium term

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Sweden's Autoliv ALIVsdb.STALV.N, the world's biggest maker of airbags and seatbelts, set new financial targets on Tuesday, aiming for a core operating margin of around 12% in the next three to five years.

The company, whose competitors include Joyson Safety Systems and ZF, also said it aimed to grow annual organic sales by 3%-4% above light vehicle production growth on average over a three to five year period.

“These targets are challenging, but realistic,” Autoliv CEO Mikael Bratt told Reuters.

The company, in a statement ahead of a day of investor presentations at its plant in Ogden, Utah, also said it expected its operating margin would improve in 2020 versus 2019, for which it has forecast a 9% core profit margin.

Autoliv shares were down 1% by 1645 GMT, after a strong run in recent months, rising 22% since August.

The car industry is in a deep slump, pressured by weak demand and a need to invest in and adapt to electric and self-driving technologies. Autoliv has cut its 2019 growth and margin forecast several times throughout the year.

The company said potential tailwinds for next year included a smaller hit from raw material costs, organic growth from market share gains, impact of cost-cutting programmes, and a more stable market. Headwinds could include higher depreciation and amortisation.

“Considering these potential tailwinds and headwinds we expect a year-over-year improvement in adjusted operating margin, absent unforeseen events,” Autoliv said.

Although global car production is down sharply this year, Autoliv has kept growing slightly, helped by several years of strong order intake in the wake of the collapse of its former rival Takata, now a part of Joyson.

Autoliv said order intake had stayed strong in 2019 through October, estimating its global share of orders at about 50%.

Looking beyond the next five years, Autoliv said it would aim to grow at least in line with the market and look to increase the margin to about 13% after full implementation of “ongoing and planned strategic initiatives”.

Reporting by Johannes Hellstrom; Editing by Jan Harvey and Edmund Blair