For 2014, Cooper anticipates growth equal to or higher than the industry norm in key markets, allowing it to recover lost unit volumes.
This would allow the company to “effectively leverage our flexible global manufacturing and distribution footprint to deliver on our strategic plan objectives, which focus on driving stockholder value as a top priority,” Mr. Armes said.
For fiscal 2013, Cooper's operating income fell 39.4 percent to $240.7 million, while net income was cut nearly in half to $111 million. Sales were off 18.1 percent to $3.44 billion, leaving an operating/sales ratio of 7 percent, down 2½ percentage points from the 2012 level.
Operating profit in the fourth quarter plunged 62.2 percent to $47 million, while sales fell 18.8 percent to 861 million. Net earnings dropped 73.1 percent to $19.6 million.
Fourth quarter profits were impacted by $27 million in unusual items related to the negative impacts of labor actions taken at the Cooper Chengshan (Shandong) Tire Co. Ltd. (CCT) joint venture, Cooper said. This figure included $25 million from lower volumes and $2 million of manufacturing inefficiencies in the international business segment.
The results also included $9 million of costs resulting from the now terminated merger agreement with Apollo Tyres. In addition, unfavorable price and product mix reduced profits by $68 million, offset in part by $31 million of lower raw material costs.
Manufacturing costs were unfavorable by $10 million, including $11 million of costs from production curtailments in North American plants.
The company ended the fourth quarter with $398 million in cash and cash equivalents, an increase of $46 million compared with the prior-year fourth quarter balance of $352 million, Cooper said.
Cooper's North America Tire Operations reported 31-percent lower operating income of $204.2 million for the year, on 19.7-percent lower sales of $2.49 billion. Operating income in the fourth quarter dropped 66.2 percent to $34.9 million, whiles sales were off 22.6 percent to $628.1 million on lower unit volumes and unfavorable price and mix.
Unit shipments for the North American segment fell 13 percent in the quarter, Cooper said, including a 10-percent drop in light vehicle tire shipments in the U.S. That contrasted with 2-percent growth for the market overall, as reported by the Rubber Manufacturers Association.
In a conference call with analysts March 14, Cooper executives noted that the work stoppage at CCT last year, along with suspension of production of Cooper tires at the plant negatively impacted Cooper's operations and reduced product availability in the U.S. and China, especially for its medium truck tires.
Other factors impacting 2013 volume included intense competition from imports, especially for entry level products and the company's delayed price adjustment on those products; implementation of an ERP system in the U.S. facilities; and inventory adjustments in the first quarter by its customers, according to Mr. Armes.
Cooper said problems related to the implementation of an ERP (enterprise resource planning) system in the U.S. facilities last year created warehousing and shipping inefficiencies, but the system has become more manageable now and is expected to have less negative impact in the future.
Mr. Armes said that if Cooper sells its stake in CCT, it has no intention of abandoning its truck tire business. Rather, Cooper would seek other production sources, probably in China, he said. In addition, if a sale occurs, Cooper has a minimum three-year supply agreement with CCT.
Cooper said it plans to continue some private label and entry level business this year but will focus on growth in the Cooper brand and premium tire segment.
For 2014, Cooper expects to:
- spend $165 million to $175 million in capital expenditures;
- introduce several new products in all categories;
- improve cost efficiencies at all in plants; and
- negotiate the future ownership of CCT.