* First quarter pretax profit $179 mln, matches forecast
* Raises forecast for 2010 operating margin, sales
* Shares drop as upgraded forecasts in line
* Sees Q2 net sales up 40 pct, op. margin at least 11 pct
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By Patrick Lannin and Victoria Klesty
STOCKHOLM, April 27 (Reuters) - World number one airbag and seatbelt makerInc reported record first- quarter profit figures on Tuesday but failed to impress some investors with its raised 2010 forecast, sending shares down.
The company, which had already raised its guidance for the first quarter, has benefited from a sharp recovery in its key markets. This boosted sales in the first three months of 2010 by a huge 86 percent year-on-year to $1.72 billion.
Pretax profit of $179 million was exactly in line with the mean forecast in a Reuters poll and was a swing from a $104 million loss in the first quarter of 2009.
's outlook was for tamer growth.
"For the full year, sales are expected to improve by close to 30 percent with organic sales growing by approximately 20 percent. The indicative operating margin for the full year is at least 10 percent," the group said.
The operating margin forecast was close to the mean forecast in the Reuters poll, but below the first quarter's 11.4 percent.
Autoliv shares were down 3.5 percent at 398 crowns at 1218 GMT. The shares have also had a good run since the company raised its guidance on March 22.
Since then the stock has risen 12 percent versus an 8 percent rise in the STOXX Europe 600 Automobiles & Parts index.
"Some have speculated that Autoliv would beat its own pre-announced figures, which seems a bit silly," said Handelsbanken analyst Hampus Engellau.
"This (the share price drop) is just due to expectations that there would be even better numbers than Autoliv had said there would be. The 'whispered consensus' was probably much higher," he said.
For the second quarter, the company expected consolidated net sales to rise by more than 40 percent year-on-year, with organic sales up at least 30 percent and an operating margin of at least 11 percent.
The Sweden-based company benefited from strong output rises in key North American, European and Japanese markets in the first quarter, plus restructuring steps begun in July 2008.
The group's previous forecast was for net sales to grow by 15 to 20 percent for the whole year and for the operating margin to be in line with its long-term target of 8 to 9 percent.
Underlying the picture of easing output gains, Autoliv cited industry research body CSM as forecasting that light vehicle production would rise 21 percent in the second quarter year-on-year, but fall 4 percent quarter-on-quarter.
For the year as a whole CSM saw gains of 15 percent year-on-year, but quaterly declines versus the first quarter's high levels, Autoliv said. (Additional reporting by Johannes Hellstrom; Editing by David Holmes, Mike Nesbit)