UPDATE 1-Magna expects full-year sales growth to match Q1


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ST GALLEN, Switzerland, May 19 (Reuters) - Magna International expects its full-year sales growth to be roughly at the same level as in the first quarter of the year, its chief executive told journalists on Thursday.

"You can derive it from the first quarter," Chief Executive Siegfried Wolf said on the sidelines of a conference, when asked to comment on the company's full-year outlook.

Asked whether that meant full-year sales growth at the auto parts giant would come out at the same rate as in the first quarter, Wolf said: "Yes.

Magna International posted weaker quarterly profits earlier this month due to lower vehicle production, higher commodity prices and restructuring costs, and warned it expects operating income to fall this year.

Magna reported a profit of $172 million, or $1.68 a share, for the quarter ended March 31, on sales of $5.7 billion. In the prior-year period, it had a profit of $179 million, or $1.84 a share, on sales of $5.1 billion.

The Canadian autoparts supplier said the difficult market conditions in North America, where major automakers have cut output, helped trim its first-quarter profit by 4 percent.

"After... the declines (I see) a certain stabilisation of the car sector," he said.

Higher raw material costs have also been a thorn in Magna's side. "We have to be very, very careful... steel and raw material prices are a concern to us," Wolf said.

Magna had to take a charge on its exposure to British automaker MG Rover in the first quarter. Rover slid into bankruptcy protection last month. When asked if Magna would have to take further charges, he said: "Rover is over for us."

Magna has said it expects operating income to be lower than last year and operating margins to be at the low end of the 5 percent range due in part to the privatisation of its three publicly traded units this year.



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