Canadian parts maker and contract vehicle assembler Magna International has posted an operating loss of US$250m for the first quarter of 2009, down from a $286m profit a year ago, and suspended its quarterly dividend payment.

The net loss was $200m (vs a $207m profit in Q1, '08) and the diluted loss per share was $1.79 ($2.48 profit).

Sales fell 46% to $3.6bn. North American average dollar content per vehicle increased 4% while the European content fell 4%. North American and European vehicle production declined 50% and 40%, respectively, Magna said.

Largely reflecting the shift last year back to the US of export Chrysler minivan production from its contract assembly plant in Austria, Magna's complete vehicle assembly sales fell 63% year on year to $401m while unit volume plunged 72% to 12,043.

Magna's board has suspended its quarterly dividend payout.

Chief financial officer Vincent Galifi said: "We are facing the worst industry conditions in decades, particularly in our primary markets. These conditions continue to adversely affect our financial results and cash flow. We believe preserving cash and maintaining a strong financial position is prudent at this time."