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Johnson Controls reports profit for 1st quarter (11:22 a.m. 1/22/10)

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Auto parts and building systems maker Johnson Controls Inc. reported a $350 million profit in its fiscal first quarter and predicted better times ahead as the economy improves later this year.

The 52-cent-per-share profit for the quarter ending Dec. 31 was a huge improvement over a $608 million loss, or $1.02 per share, during the same period in the previous year, and it came due to higher sales and cost-cutting measures.

According to the company, revenue climbed in both its automotive and power solutions segments. Sales of building efficiency products declined.

The Milwaukee-based company said the net income was a quarterly record, and it gave optimistic guidance for the rest of the year, raising its fiscal 2010 revenue forecast 16 percent to $33 billion and its earnings-per-share forecast to as much as $1.75 from its previous guidance of $1.35 to $1.45.

“We achieved record results in the first quarter despite what is still a very challenging economic environment in all of our markets,” Stephen A. Roell, chairman and CEO, said in a statement. “We believe there will be meaningful improvements in our markets by the end of the fiscal year and we are well positioned to take advantage of the growth opportunities that will arise.”

Sales for the quarter were $8.4 billion, up 15 percent from $7.3 billion in the year-ago period.

Automotive interior parts sales rose 31 percent to $4.1 billion primarily because automakers in Europe and North America raised production in the quarter, the company said. Sales in China, where Johnson Controls has a 45 percent share of the auto seating market, more than doubled.

Battery technology sales rose 15 percent to $1.3 billion on higher original equipment and aftermarket shipments, the company said. During the quarter, Johnson Controls began production of lithium-ion batteries for BMW AG’s 7-Series hybrid, and it won a contract to supply batteries for Ford Motor Co.’s rechargeable electric Transit van.

The company’s building efficiency unit was the only one to report a drop in sales — down 2 percent to $3 billion for the quarter — due largely to declines in Western Europe and Latin America. The unit makes heating, ventilating and air conditioning and security management products.

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