Electrolux Q1 profit falls less than expected

Home appliances maker Electrolux reported a smaller-than-expected fall in first-quarter earnings on Friday and forecast growth in white goods markets on both sides of the Atlantic this year, though adding a note of caution on North America.

Electrolux, which sells under brands such as AEG and Zanussi as well as its own name, said an earnings recovery in its European business remained on track while long-sluggish demand in the region had inched up in the quarter.

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Chief Executive Keith McLoughlin said the home appliances market was expected to grow 1-2 percent in Europe this year and by 3-5 percent in North America, but added growth in the latter region was seen at the lower end of the range.

The company, battling for market leadership with Whirlpool and South Korea's LG Electronics, said operating earnings fell to 516 million crowns ($59.7 million) from 731 million a year-ago but beat a mean forecast of 375 million in a Reuters poll of analysts.

The Swedish company warned this month that it would slump to a loss in North America, mainly due to mounting costs to adapt product lines in the face of new energy requirements.

Amid the cost issues in the United States, where Electrolux awaits approval of its $3.3 billion purchase of General Electric's appliances unit, the onus is on its European business to show a recent profitability rebound is on track.

Electrolux, a maker of white goods such as fridges and freezers, said its operating margin in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) rose to 4.3 percent from 1.8 percent a year earlier, just beating the 4.2 percent forecast by analysts.

"A strong product mix, with focus on high-margin categories such as built-in kitchen products, contributed to a positive organic growth in Major Appliances EMEA," McLoughlin said.