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Restructuring costs take 29% bite out of Cooper Tire profits

FINDLAY -Charges for plant closings, job cuts, and other restructuring efforts pushed profits at Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. down by 29 percent last year to $97 million, or $1.31 a share, from $136 million, or $1.79 a share.

The results substantially missed analysts' projections. A group of analysts forecast the tiremaker's 2000 earnings at $1.59 a share, according to Zacks Investment Research.

But the Findlay Fortune 1000 firm yesterday also reported record sales last year of $3.5 billion, up 58 percent from the $2.2 billion posted in 1999.

“We had the best of times and the worst of times,” said Roger Hendriksen, of the company's investor relations department.

The company said four more plants will either be closed or have reduced production. Cooper Tire announced a restructuring plan in October that would eliminate 1,100 jobs. The job cuts haven't changed, Mr. Hendriksen said, but 22 plants, not the 18 announced four months ago, are to be closed or downsized by the end of 2001.

The stock of the Findlay firm closed down 66 cents at $12.87 at 4 p.m. yesterday in trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Cooper Tire had a roller-coaster ride last year, with its strong sales attributed to a tremendous order of new cars by manufacturers and a recall by one of the company's competitors, Bridgestone/Firestone. But a reversal in orders later in the year by automakers worried about over-capacity left the tire manufacturer struggling to cut costs.

Three Cooper Tire facilities have been closed and 200 positions have been cut so far as part of the restructuring, the company said yesterday.

“Significant downsizing” will occur at some sites during the first quarter and two plants are planned to close in the second quarter, the company said.

The moves are expected to bring $30 million in savings, once completed. Mr. Hendriksen said employees have been notified about which plants are involved, but the company is not discussing the details publicly.

The company reported fourth-quarter profit of $6.3 million, or 9 cents a share, which includes the restructuring related charges. It listed record sales for the quarter of $820 million, a 17 percent increase over the $701 million a year ago.

The firm also announced a quarterly dividend of 10.5 cents a share on common stock, payable March 30 to stockholders of record on March 5.

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