Michelin 1Q Sales Up 12.2 Percent

French tire maker said its sales grew in the first quarter as demand for passenger car and light truck tires rebounded across most of its major markets.

PARIS (AP) -- French tire maker Michelin SCA said Thursday its sales grew in the first quarter as demand for passenger car and light truck tires rebounded across most of its major markets.

The Clermont-Ferrand, France-based manufacturer reported sales of euro3.94 billion (US$5.22 billion) for the first three months of the year, up 12.2 percent from euro3.51 billion a year earlier, the company said in a statement.

Michelin said demand was strongest for original equipment tires, where sales growth of 49 percent far outstripped the 10.7 percent growth in its replacement tires business.

The company credited strong automobile sales in North America and Europe, helped by scrappage incentives offered by governments to boost demand and rescue the recession-hammered car industry.

Michelin said it still targets positive free cash flow this year, and around 10 percent growth in volumes.

Last year Michelin had a positive free cash flow -- the funds a company is able to generate after maintaining or expanding assets -- of euro1.4 billion compared to a negative euro359 million in 2008 after it ran down inventories and reduced capital expenditure.

Volumes fell nearly 15 percent last year due to a record collapse in tire markets around the world.

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