Autoliv, the world’s top maker of seatbelts and airbags, has reported third quarter pretax profits of $US97 million, slightly above expectations, and said margins would inch up despite rising raw materials prices.

According to Reuters, analysts had forecast a $94 million pretax figure for the Swedish group versus $78 million a year ago. Third quarter sales were $1.4 billion versus a forecast of $1.35 billion.

“Sales for the fourth quarter 2004 are expected to increase, compared to the same quarter prior year, by approximately 7%, given current exchange rates,” Autoliv said, according to the news agency. “The continued high prices in the markets for raw materials will also be difficult to offset by higher volumes and accelerated cost-saving efforts in other areas.”

“Despite this, the operating margin during the fourth quarter is expected to slightly exceed the underlying margin of 8% as presented in the earnings release for the fourth quarter 2003,” it reportedly added.

It expected light vehicle production to decline in the fourth quarter, but said it would be able to offset this “thanks to the continuous penetration of new products, a favourable vehicle mix and Autoliv’s expansion in Asia,” Reuters added.

The report said this would mean like-for-like sales would continue to outperform vehicle sales in its three main markets, Europe, North America and Asia at around the same rate as in the third quarter, when it was 8%.