The first quarter proved to be positive for four tire companies.
TBC Corp. reported record sales and earnings while Continental A.G. saw its sales and profits grow. Titan International Inc., meanwhile, continued its turnaround with earnings more than doubling from 2004's first quarter.
Group Michelin posted a slight increase in sales as its shipments of private and associate brands fell.
Continental is projecting record sales and earnings for 2005 based on the positive results of the first quarter, which saw both profits and sales rise measurably.
Pre-tax operating earnings rose 9.5 percent to $370 million while sales-buoyed by the first-time inclusion of the Phoenix A.G. non-tire activities acquired last year-grew 8.9 percent to $4.27 billion.
Net earnings jumped 24.8 percent to $219.2 million.
Among Conti's divisions, the passenger and light truck tires unit's sales rose 6.7 percent to $1.29 billion and the operating result was up 7.6 percent to $119.6 million. The commercial vehicle tires unit posted a 12.9-percent gain in operating profits to $23 million on 9.6-percent better sales of $402.4 million. The ContiTech businesses reported 43-percent higher sales of $929 million and 19.5-percent better operating profits of $76.5 million, with the Phoenix activities contributing $14.8 million in operating earnings and $312 million in sales.
Group Michelin reported slightly higher sales revenue for the first quarter despite lower European sales volume.
Michelin credited increased prices and improved product mix for the 1-percent rise in sales to $4.5 billion.
In North America, sales grew on the general economic upturn, Michelin said. In passenger/light truck tires, the firm's Michelin and BFGoodrich-branded high performance segment performed ``extremely well,'' but shipments of private and associate brands slipped.
Truck tire sales were up on the strength of new national account business, and sales of retread products posted double-digit growth.
TBC posted record sales and earnings in the first quarter, primarily on growth in mechanical services and stronger private brand tire sales.
TBC reported net sales of $466.4 million, up 7.5 percent from $433.8 million last year. Net income grew 12.9 percent to $6.21 million vs. $5.5 million last year. The company's retail segment posted net sales of $293.2 million, or 62.9 percent of the total, while the wholesale segment reported sales of $173.2 million.
Also in the quarter, same store sales grew 2.7 percent-a slower rate than the 6.2-percent growth TBC reported in 2004's first quarter. Total unit tire shipments grew 3.1 percent in the quarter.
TBC also ended the quarter five stores ahead of its prior year level with 1,172 total outlets-609 in its company-owned Tire Kingdom Inc. subsidiary and 563 in its franchised Big O Tires Inc. operation. TBC said it plans to add 20 to 30 stores to the Tire Kingdom network and 15 to 20 to Big O this year.
Titan continued its upswing with net income surging 112.3 percent in the first quarter to $11.2 million.
The company also is closer to finalizing its buyout of Goodyear's North American farm business.
Net sales for the quarter slipped 18.5 percent to $136.1 million. But excluding Titan Europe P.L.C.-which Titan spun off in April 2004 though it retained 29.3-percent ownership-first quarter sales were 15.8 percent ahead of the same period last year. Titan said it was able to reduce its total debt by $6.5 million as of March 31.
Quincy-based Titan earlier this year reported a profit in 2004-its first annual profit since 2000.
Titan said it is nearing completion of the acquisition of the ag business assets from Goodyear, though that step is subject to an agreement with the United Steelworkers of America. Titan said those negotiations are ongoing, but the company expects the sale to close in the second quarter.