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TORONTO (Reuters) - Magna International Inc (MG.TO) MGA.N, one of the world's biggest auto parts manufacturers, reported a big jump in quarterly earnings on Thursday that easily beat analysts' expectations as vehicle production soared in North America.
The company also modestly boosted its full-year sales forecast to a range of $28 billion to $29.5 billion, from a previous estimate last month of $27.8 billion to $29.3 billion.
Magna said fourth-quarter profit rose to $312 million, or $1.32 a share, compared with earnings of $224 million, or 89 cents a share, in the year-ago quarter.
Analysts had expected earnings of $1.02 a share and revenue of $7.19 billion in the quarter ended December 31, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Revenue rose 13 percent to $7.3 billion, the Aurora, Ontario-based company said.
Vehicle production increased 15 percent in North America from the year-ago quarter, but declined 4 percent in Europe.
Underperforming European operations showed improvements from the third quarter, Magna said on a conference call, and gains are expected to continue in 2012.
Two lagging facilities in Europe will still be operating at a loss by the end of the year, but European operations overall will be positive, the company said.
Magna said it will also focus on the launch of new factories in 2012. It is in the process of launching 40 new factories between 2012 and 2014.
Sitting on a healthy balance sheet and wealth of opportunities for acquisitions, Magna said it expects to continue making purchases in the year ahead.
Magna also announced on Thursday it was increasing its dividend by 10 percent to 27.5 cents per share per quarter.
Magna's shares dipped marginally on Thursday, losing 50 Canadian cents to close at C$44.95 on the Toronto Stock Exchange. The stock has lost about 18 percent of its value over the past year.
Reporting By Susan Taylor; editing by Rob Wilson, Peter Galloway, Phil Berlowitz