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Published: Thursday, 5/3/2012

Cooper Tire's profit jumps 38% in 1st quarter

BY TYREL LINKHORN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Cooper Tire, based in Findlay, earned $22 million, or 34 cents per share, on revenue of $984 million. Cooper Tire, based in Findlay, earned $22 million, or 34 cents per share, on revenue of $984 million.
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FINDLAY -- Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. sold fewer tires in the first quarter than it did last year, but the Findlay-based company still reported a 38 percent jump in profit on better revenue.

For the quarter, Cooper earned $22 million, or 34 cents per share, on revenue of $984 million. In 2011, Cooper reported earning $16 million, or 25 cents per share, on revenue of $902 million.

Chief Executive Officer Roy Armes said stronger revenues came on higher pricing of Cooper's tires. The company increased prices 5 percent for passenger and light truck tires in December, and announced a 4 percent bump in commercial truck tire prices in March.

In North America, unit sales fell 3 percent compared to last year. Internationally, unit sales were higher. Both segments produced higher revenue than last year.

Cooper's earnings topped the average analysts estimate of 31 cents per share.

Shares of Cooper's stock rose 84 cents, or about 5.5 percent, Wednesday to close at $15.99.

Weighing some on Cooper were higher raw material costs and increased manufacturing costs related to the three-month lockout at the company's Findlay plant that ended in February.

Mr. Armes said first-quarter costs associated with the lockout were $29 million, bringing the total cost of the labor dispute to about $40 million. Officials said they do not expect any costs of the lockout, which lasted from Nov. 28 to Feb. 27, to carry over into the second quarter.

"We're very pleased to have our employees back to work and to the credit of the management team and the workers at our Findlay facility, we had a smooth ramp-up with limited issues," Mr. Armes said in a Wednesday morning conference call with analysts.

Officials also said the new contracts at Cooper's plants in Findlay and Texarkana, Ark., would over time lead to productivity improvements.

"As a result of this agreement we've got with our union not only here in Findlay but in Texarkana, it's only going to continue to make us better as a company," Mr. Armes said.

Despite sluggish demand in the tire industry, the company believes there is pent-up demand. Officials said it is difficult to know when it will manifest, but in the meantime, they said they are focused on outperforming the industry.

The quarter was the 11th consecutive of profitability for Cooper.

Cooper produces replacement tires, and is the fourth-largest tire manufacturer in the United States.



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