Tire and automotive service companies for the most part improved their financial performance in 2004 and reported increased sales and profits.
Titan International Inc. led the group in turning a $36.7 million loss in 2003 to an $11.1 million profit. Midas Inc. also posted a turnaround from net losses in 2003 and is projecting continued earnings improvement this year. Pirelli S.p.A.'s operating profit soared 42 percent in 2004.
Meanwhile, Pep Boys-Manny, Moe & Jack posted net income before an accounting change but warned of ``uneven'' results this year.
Titan International Inc. unveiled its first profitable fiscal year since 2000.
The Quincy, Ill.-based tire and wheel maker posted annual net earnings of $11.1 million as sales rose 3.8 percent to $510.6 million. This follows a $36.7 million loss in 2003.
Using pro-forma figures accounting for the revenues of Titan Europe, which Titan publicly spun off in April, annual net sales increased to $461.1 million from $348 million in 2003.
Titan reported fourth quarter sales of $105.9 million, down 12.1 percent. On a pro-forma basis, sales jumped 30 percent in the fourth quarter.
The company's gross profits-taking into account only net sales and cost of sales-surged for both the quarter and year, rising to $13.1 million from $7.94 million in the year's final quarter and to $79.5 million from $29.7 million for the year.
Titan did post a $1.29 million net loss in the final quarter of the year, primarily because of a $5.3 million depreciation charge for assets marked for sale at four idled production sites, including two wheel facilities and equipment at tire operations in Natchez, Miss., and Brownsville, Texas. The loss for the quarter was an improvement over the net loss of $9.21 million posted in 2003's fourth quarter.
Titan also paid out about $3 million in bonuses near the end of the quarter, according to Maurice Taylor Jr., the company's president and CEO.
Milan, Italy-based Pirelli S.p.A., led by its resurgent tire division, reported a 42-percent jump in 2004 operating profit and a 6.9-percent sales gain.
The tire sector reported a 14-percent rise in pre-tax operating income to $565.2 million-the best earnings performance in 10 years-as sales grew 11.5 percent to $4 billion, raising the earnings/sales ratio to 14.1 percent.
The sales gain was a mix of improved shipments-up 8 percent over 2003-and improved pricing and product mix, ``thus confirming the focus on high-performance segments,'' Pirelli said.
The company did not disclose any geographic breakdown or forecast for 2005.
Pirelli reported consolidated operating profit of $472 million on sales of $8.86 billion.
Despite getting back into the black last year, Pep Boys-Manny, Moe & Jack is cautioning investors that its interim results this year can be ``uneven'' as the automotive chain tweaks its retail operation to ``thrive over the longer run.''
Pep Boys reported net income from continuing operations of $25.7 million-before an accounting change-vs. a loss of $15.2 million in fiscal 2004, and a sales improvement of 6.5 percent to $2.27 billion.
In the fourth quarter, the company's net loss from continuing operations deepened to $9.67 million from a net loss of $5.02 million, while sales rose 4.6 percent to $554.1 million.
Itasca, Ill.-based Midas Inc. earned $4.1 million for the fiscal year ended Jan. 1, including the effects of $5.9 million in special charges.
Sales for the year of $197.5 million were 36.5 percent lower, reflecting its withdrawal from the parts distribution business and closing of a dozen regional distribution centers and 77 quick-delivery sites.
Midas earned $2 million in the fourth quarter compared with a net loss of $25.3 million in 2003. Fourth quarter revenues dropped 42 percent to $47.3 million.
Operating income reached $2.3 million for the fourth quarter and $20 million for the full year, compared with operating losses of $35.1 million for the previous year's fourth quarter and $100.2 million for 2003.
The firm expects 2005 revenues of about $200 million, as improvements in franchise royalties, real estate revenues and company-operated shop sales will be offset largely by continued declines in exhaust sales.