Power steering specialist China Automotive Systems boosted Q4 2012 sales 7.5% to US$101.5m but gross profit dipped to $17.2m, compared to $18.3m in the fourth quarter of 2011; gross margin was 16.9% versus 19.4%.

Operations income was $7.4m versus $7.6m and operating margin was 7.3%, compared to 8.1% in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Net income fell to $5.1m, (EPS$0.18) versus $6m ($0.19).

Full year sales were $336m, up from $329.8m in 2011. Gross profit was $60.8m ($63.4m); gross margin was 18.1% (19.2%); operating income was $27.8m ($31.1m); operating margin was 8.3% (9.4%) and net income $19.8m ($0.70) versus $36.3m ($0.69) in 2011.

CEO Qizhou Wu said: "The overall Chinese automotive market showed slight improvement during 2012 although the growth was not steady because the sales of passenger vehicles grew while the sales of commercial vehicles generally decreased in 2012. We maintained our market leadership through an increase in sales volume. Our exports to North America significantly contributed to our growth in 2012. We will continue to expand our international operations in the future. We also expect that the demand of the local Chinese market will continue to rise based on recent market performance."

Revenue guidance is 10% growth for full year 2013.

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China Automotive Systems Reports Higher Net Sales for the Fourth Quarter and Fiscal Year 2012

WUHAN, China, March 27, 2013 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- China Automotive Systems, Inc. ("CAAS" or the "Company") (NASDAQ: CAAS), a leading power steering components and systems supplier in China, today announced its financial results for the fourth quarter and the fiscal year ended December 31, 2012.

Fourth Quarter 2012 Highlights


    --  Net sales increased by 7.5% to $101.5 million, compared to $94.4 million
        in the fourth quarter of 2011.
    --  Gross profit was $17.2 million, compared to $18.3 million in the fourth
        quarter of 2011; gross margin was 16.9%, compared to 19.4% in the fourth
        quarter of 2011.
    --  Research and development ("R&D") expenses were $4.8 million, compared to
        $3.0 million in the fourth quarter of 2011.
    --  Income from operations was $7.4 million, compared to $7.6 million in the
        fourth quarter of 2011, and the operating margin was 7.3%, compared to
        8.1% in the fourth quarter of 2011.
    --  Net income attributable to parent company's common shareholders was $5.1
        million, or diluted earnings per share of $0.18, compared to the net
        income attributable to parent company's common shareholders of $6.0
        million, or diluted earnings per share of $0.19, in the fourth quarter
        of 2011.
Fiscal Year 2012 Highlights


    --  Net sales were $336.0 million, compared to $329.8 million in 2011.
    --  Gross profit was $60.8 million, compared to $63.4 million in 2011; gross
        margin was 18.1%, compared to 19.2% in 2011.
    --  Operating income was $27.8 million, compared to $31.1 million in 2011;
        operating margin was 8.3%, compared to 9.4% in 2011.
    --  R&D expenses were $14.9 million, compared to $9.0 million in 2011.
    --  Net income attributable to parent company's common shareholders was
        $19.8 million, or diluted earnings per share of $0.70, compared to net
        income attributable to parent company's common shareholders of $36.3
        million, or diluted earnings per share of $0.69, in 2011.
    --  Net cash flow from operations was $16.2 million, compared to $34.1
        million in 2011.
    --  Cash and cash equivalents were $87.6 million at December 31, 2012, an
        increase from $73.0 million at December 31, 2011.
Mr. Qizhou Wu, chief executive officer of CAAS, commented: "The overall Chinese automotive market showed slight improvement during 2012 although the growth was not steady, because the sales of passenger vehicles grew while the sales of commercial vehicles generally decreased in 2012. We maintained our market leadership through an increase in sales volume. Our exports to North America significantly contributed to our growth in 2012. We will continue to expand our international operations in the future. We also expect that the demand of the local Chinese market will continue to rise based on recent market performance."

Mr. Jie Li, chief financial officer, commented, "We have continued to generate positive cash flow and redeemed all our convertible notes in 2012 prior to their maturity date to enhance our financial flexibility. We will use our financial strength to support our growth locally and internationally, as we continue to launch new advanced products through innovations in our research and development activities. CAAS is well positioned to be a major participant in any future automotive market rebound in China, as we will continue to develop new advanced products and increase our global presence through international sales."

Fourth Quarter of 2012

In the fourth quarter of 2012, net sales increased by 7.5% to $101.5 million, compared to $94.4 million in the same quarter of 2011. The net sales increase was mainly due to an increase of international sales to a customer in North America, a sales increase of new products in China, an increase in sales volume encouraged by the Chinese government's incentive policy relating to the purchase of lower-emission and more fuel-efficient cars (the "Government Incentive Policy") which was implemented in May 2012, and the appreciation of the Renminbi ("RMB") versus the U.S. dollar, which were only slightly offset by the lower average selling prices of the products sold in China.

Gross profit was $17.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2012, compared to $18.3 million in the same quarter of 2011. The gross margin was 16.9% in the fourth quarter of 2012, versus 19.4% in the same quarter of 2011. The decrease in gross profit was primarily due to lower selling prices and greater sales volume of lower-margin products in the China market.

Selling expenses rose by 11.5% to $2.9 million in the fourth quarter of 2012, compared to $2.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2011. Selling expenses represented 2.9% of net sales in the fourth quarter of 2012, which was approximately the same as 2.8% in the fourth quarter of 2011.

General and administrative expenses ("G&A expenses") declined by 25.0% to $3.9 million in the fourth quarter of 2012, compared to $5.2 million in the same quarter of 2011. The decrease was mainly due to the reduction in the amount of staff compensation, which was primarily due to the payment of lower performance bonuses to management. G&A expenses represented 3.8% of net sales in the fourth quarter of 2012, compared to 5.5% in the fourth quarter of 2011.

R&D expenses rose by 60.0% to $4.8 million in the fourth quarter of 2012, compared to $3.0 million in the same quarter of 2011. The increase in R&D expenses was mainly due to the Company's spending on the improvement of machinery molds, and the increased personnel-related expenses and costs for the further development of the Company's electric power steering products. R&D expenses represented 4.7% of net sales in the fourth quarter of 2012, which was an increase from 3.2% in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Income from operations was $7.4 million in the fourth quarter of 2012, compared to $7.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2011. As a percentage of net sales, the operating margin was 7.3% in the fourth quarter of 2012, compared to 8.1% in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Net financial expenses declined by 72.7% to $0.3 million, compared to $1.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2011. This decrease was primarily due to a decrease in the average debt level as a result of the redemption of the convertible notes by the Company on May 25, 2012 (the "Redemption").

There was no gain on change in fair value of derivative in the fourth quarter of 2012 as all the convertible notes had been redeemed in the second quarter of 2012, compared to a non-cash gain of $1.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2011 due to movements in the Company's stock prices during such quarter.

Income before income tax expenses and equity in earnings of affiliated companies was $7.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2012, compared to $8.1 million in the same quarter of 2011. The decrease in income before income tax expenses and equity in earnings of affiliated companies in the fourth quarter of 2012 was mainly due to a decrease in financial expenses, an increase in other net income in the fourth quarter of 2012, and a gain in the fair value of derivatives of $1.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2011, while there was no such gain in the fourth quarter of 2012.

Net income attributable to parent company's common shareholders was $5.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2012, compared to net income attributable to parent company's common shareholders of $6.0 million, including $0.5 million from discontinued operations, in the corresponding quarter of 2011. Diluted earnings per share were $0.18 in the fourth quarter of 2012, compared to diluted earnings per share of $0.19 in the fourth quarter of 2011. The weighted average number of diluted common shares outstanding was 28,076,879 in the fourth quarter of 2012, compared to 31,511,685 in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Fiscal Year 2012

Annual net sales increased by $6.2 million to $336.0 million in 2012, compared to $329.8 million in 2011. Higher sales in 2012 were mainly due to growth in new product export sales to a customer in North America, growth in sales volume which was encouraged by the Government Incentive Policy, and the effect of RMB appreciation against the U.S. dollar, which were slightly offset by the lower average selling prices of products sold in China.

Gross profit in 2012 decreased to $60.8 million from $63.4 million in 2011. Gross margin was 18.1%, compared to 19.2% in 2011, primarily due to lower selling prices and greater sales of lower-margin products in the China market.

Selling expenses in 2012 increased by 4.3% to $9.6 million in 2012 from $9.2 million in 2011, mainly due to higher office costs, increased staff compensation and increased traveling expenses. Selling expenses represented 2.9% and 2.8% of net sales in 2012 and 2011, respectively.

G&A expenses decreased by $2.6 million, or 16.8%, to $12.9 million in 2012 from $15.5 million in 2011. Lower G&A expenses were primarily due to reduced staff compensation as a result of the payment of lower performance bonuses to management, decreased maintenance expenses and reduced office expenses. G&A expenses represented 3.8% of net sales in 2012 compared to 4.7% in 2011.

R&D expenses increased by 65.6% or $5.9 million, to $14.9 million in 2012 from $9.0 million in 2011, primarily due to costs incurred related to the Company's further development of its EPS technology with the improvement of machinery molds, and higher staff compensation costs. R&D expenses represented 4.4% of net sales in 2012, which was an increase from 2.7% in 2011.

Operating income decreased to $27.8 million in 2012 from $31.1 million in 2011, due to lower gross profit and higher operating expenses, which were partially offset by a greater gain on other sales for material scraps and fixed assets. The operating margin represented 8.3% of net sales in 2012 compared to 9.4% in 2011.

Financial expenses decreased by 45.0% to $2.2 million in 2012 from $4.0 million in 2011, as interest expenses were reduced after the Redemption, which was slightly offset by higher interest income for higher cash balances in 2012.

There was no convertible notes conversion or any gain resulting from any conversion in 2012, compared to a gain on convertible notes conversion of $1.6 million in 2011.

The loss on change in fair value of the derivative embedded in the convertible notes was $0.4 million in 2012, compared with a $21.0 million gain in 2011. The loss in 2012 was due to the increase in the Company's stock prices during the period from the beginning of 2012 to the date of the Redemption. The loss was non-cash in nature.

The Company recorded a gain of $1.4 million on the redemption of the convertible notes in 2012. There was no redemption or any gain resulting from any redemption in 2011.

Income before income tax expenses and equity in earnings of affiliated companies was $27.1 million in 2012. Compared to $49.8 million in 2011, there was a decrease of $22.7 million, or 45.6%, mainly due to lower operating profit and a decrease in gain on change in fair value of derivative of $21.4 million. Income before taxes represented 8.1% of net sales in 2012 compared to 15.1% in 2011.

Income tax expense was $4.4 million in 2012, compared to $4.1 million in 2011. The income tax increase was mainly due to a higher effective tax rate of 16.2% for the year ended December 31, 2012 from 8.3% for the year ended December 31, 2011. The lower tax rate in 2011 was primarily because the gain on changes in fair value of derivatives of $21.0 million, which was recognized in 2011, was not taxable.

Net income attributable to parent company's common shareholders was $19.8 million in 2012, compared to $36.3 million in 2011. Diluted earnings per share were $0.70 in 2012, compared to $0.69 in 2011. The weighted average number of diluted common shares outstanding was 28,215,367 in 2012, compared to 31,511,685 in 2011.

As of December 31, 2012, total cash and cash equivalents were $87.6 million, compared to $73.0 million as of December 31, 2011. Working capital was $138.7 million as of December 31, 2012, compared to $147.8 million as of December 31, 2011. Net cash flows from operations were $16.2 million in 2012, compared to $34.1 million in 2011. Cash used to acquire properties, plants and equipment was $19.0 million in 2012, compared to $14.9 million in 2011.

Business Outlook

Management's revenue guidance is for 10% year-over-year growth for the full year 2013. This target is based on the Company's current views on operating and market conditions, which are subject to change.

Original source: PRN

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