Electrolux reports higher global profits despite flat North American sales

Swedish appliance maker Electrolux reported higher first-quarter profits Friday, despite inclement weather in recent months that the company said slowed its North American sales.

Electrolux, which has its North American headquarters in Charlotte, reported a profit of $65.6 million in the first quarter, up 19 percent from the same period in 2013.

The company’s earnings were buoyed by stronger sales in Europe, where slumping demand for appliances had previously hurt its performance.

Its North America division, a bright spot in recent quarters, saw lower profits due to harsh weather in January and February.

“When you have very cold weather, consumers are not really going out to buy consumer durables,” said Jack Truong, the division’s Charlotte-based CEO.

Consumer demand was down about 6 percent industry-wide, he added, noting that Electrolux’s flat North American results still beat analysts’ estimates.

Electrolux officials said a strong recovery in March and robust sales of higher-margin cooking and refrigeration products helped lessen the impact.

The company reported $1.2 billion in sales in North America.

Truong said warming temperatures brought consumers back, and the North American division posted its biggest month for sales and profits.

The company said it expects market demand for appliances in the U.S. to rise by 4 percent this year.

Electrolux is in the midst of an $85 million expansion project at its North American headquarters in Charlotte’s University Research Park. It includes construction of a new six-story building and adding 810 workers, roughly doubling the size of the company’s operation there.

The expansion project will take about two years, company officials have said. Electrolux is seeking a rezoning for the property, and hopes for approval by this summer.