By DENNIS SEID / Daily Journal

FINDLAY, Ohio • Cooper Tire & Rubber Co.’s sales increased in the first quarter of the year, but saw its profits drop from the same time a year ago.

The company on Monday said sales totaled nearly $619.2 million, a 2.9 percent gain over the $601.5 million it recorded during the first quarter of 2018.

Net income for the quarter was $7.18 million, or 14 cents per share, compared to $8.9 million, or 16 cents per share, a year ago.

The company said consolidated unit volume decreased 0.7 percent compared to the first quarter of 2018.

Additionally, operating profit was $26 million, or 4.3 percent of net sales, despite $10 million in costs related to tariffs enacted in the quarter on truck and bus radial tires imported into the United States from China and $5 million of restructuring charges in Europe.

Cooper Tire employs about 1,400 at its plant in Tupelo, which has been in operation since 1984.

“Operating profit in the first quarter was higher than we expected due to stronger than anticipated performance in North America and Asia,” said Cooper President and CEO Brad Hughes. “Our Americas segment delivered an operating profit of $39 million, up $8 million from year ago, despite the $10 million impact of new TBR tariffs in the period this year.”

Hughes also said that for the third consecutive quarter, Cooper saw unit volume growth in the U.S. In Asia, he said the company performed “better than expected in what continues to be a challenging economic environment

“In fact, third-party sales were up year over year in the region, but this was more than offset by lower intercompany shipments from China to North America,” he said.

Hughes said economic conditions overall point toward increased tire demand, particularly in the U.S.