PARIS – Michelin expects this year’s profits to exceed pre-pandemic levels, the French tyre maker said on Monday, as it posted better-than-expected 2021 results helped by volume and price increases that offset inflationary pressures.
The company expects its segment operating profit to rise to more than 3.2 billion euros ($3.6 billion), above the 3.01 billion euros recorded in 2019 and in line with its earlier vows to return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2022.
The recovery will however vary across markets. “Some markets will be above 2019, (but) for example the original equipment market for vehicles might not be back yet at 2019 levels,” Chief Finance Officer Yves Chapot told Reuters.
Michelin makes tyres within three main segments – passenger cars, trucks, and specialty vehicles such as agriculture, mining equipment or plane tyres.
This year, the firm forecasts light truck tyre market growth of 0%-4%. The truck tyre market is seen increasing by 1%-5%.
“(Light truck) replacement markets are back at 2019 levels… the original equipment will still be perturbed for sure during the first half-year, and will probably rebound only within the second half, and maybe the last quarter of the year,” Chapot said.
Specialty tyres, Michelin’s most resilient segment, should grow by 6%-10%, helped again by mining and agriculture but also a recovery in the aircraft tyre market.
The company’s sales last year rose more than 16% year-on-year to 23.80 billion euros, above the highest point of the analysts’ forecast range it provided. Its operating profits rose to 2.97 billion euros, roughly in line with expectations.
“The overall yearly results have improved mostly thanks to three triggers,” Chapot said, pointing to volumes – which were however still 4.5% below 2019 levels – price increases and product mix improvement, and integration of companies acquired since 2018.
“(Last year) we faced 1.2 billion euros of inflators, partly in raw materials, and (factors) outside raw materials such as energy, transportation, maritime shipping,” Chapot said.
The company expects similar inflationary pressures in 2022, with an aim to hedge them with the price and mix effect as it did last year, he added.
Michelin’s exposure to recent tensions stemming from the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, from where it imports some raw materials, was limited, Chapot said.
The company does not expect any short-term impact on its activities from the recent truck driver protests in Canada, he added.
($1 = 0.8848 euros)
(Reporting by Piotr Lipinski; Editing by Jan Harvey)