FINDLAY — Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. rolled to a new sales record in 2012, boosting net sales 7 percent to $4.2 billion.
The Findlay-based tire maker also set a new record for fourth-quarter sales at $1.1 billion. It was the fourth time in the last five quarters Cooper has reached $1 billion in sales.
For the year, Cooper earned $220 million, or $3.49 a share. In 2011, the company earned $254 million, or $4.02 a share, though that included a $177 million one-time tax benefit in that year’s fourth quarter.
“Due in large part to successful product launches and demand for our products, the company has increased unit volumes and outpaced the industry in our key markets for the full year,” chief executive officer Roy Armes said in a statement Monday.
For the fourth quarter, Cooper said it earned $73 million, or $1.15 per share.
Helping Cooper in the quarter were less expensive materials — the company said raw material costs were down $101 million compared to the fourth quarter of 2011. Cooper also was successful in boosting European sales volume 23 percent. Sales volumes were up 2 percent in North America and fell 2 percent in Asia, the company said.
In 2011, Cooper earned $209 million, or $3.33 per share, in the fourth quarter. Much of that was due to the $177 million one-time tax benefit.
Mr. Armes addressed the company's recent announcement that it would supply tires for some models of the 2013 Ford Focus. It's the first time Cooper tires have been original equipment on a U.S. passenger car.
“I’ve always said if it’s financially mutually beneficial, and the relationship and the business can make us a better company, we would really consider this,” he said during a conference call with analysts and investors. “We’ve always felt it could help our brand awareness and brand equity.”
Mr. Armes said Cooper expects to grow that business somewhat in the coming years, though he reasserted that Cooper’s focus will remain in the replacement tire business.
The company’s stock was one of the few Wall Street winners on Monday, gaining about 2.5 percent to close at $26.03. The Dow Jones industrial average was down 177 points, or 1.55 percent.
Mr. Armes said Cooper is viewing 2013 with cautious optimism. There has been some inventory build-up related to the expiration last fall of tariffs on Chinese-made tires. Mr. Armes believes the market will normalize by the second quarter, but it will take some time to work through that inventory before Cooper can significantly grow volume.
“We’re not out looking to grow market share. We’re out looking to grow our profitability," he said. "That’s what we've been proving and that’s what I think we’ll prove going forward.”
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