March 13, 2008 / 5:29 PM / 10 years ago

UPDATE 1-Uni-Select fourth-quarter profit hit by strong C$

TORONTO, March 13 (Reuters) - Fourth-quarter earnings at Uni-Select Inc (UNS.TO) fell 22 percent, the company said on Thursday, largely due to the impact of the U.S. exchange rate against the strong Canadian dollar.

Uni-Select, which distributes replacement auto parts, equipment and tools, said net earnings were C$13.1 million ($13.3 million), or 66 Canadian cents a share, compared with C$16.7 million, or 84 Canadian cents a share, in the same quarter a year ago.

The company said that the economic downturn in the United States hurt its bottom line, but the conditions should provide it with new acquisition opportunities.

Sales at the Boucherville, Quebec-based company were up 1.2 percent at C$283 million from C$279.8 million.

Excluding the impact of stronger Canadian currency the company said sales would have increased by 8.9 percent to C$304.7 million and earnings would have been C$15.3 million or 78 Canadian cents per share.

Uni-Select said sales at its Automotive Group USA unit grew 6.2 percent to C$149.7 million with acquisitions contributing C$28.7 million. The company acquired Consumer Auto Parts in August and Parts Distributors in September.

Sales at its Automotive Group Canada unit fell 6 percent to C$114.2 million, while sales at the Heavy Duty Group rose by 4.7 percent to C$19.2 million.

Shares of Uni-Select were up 10 Canadian cents, or 0.4 percent, at C$24.95 on the Toronto Stock Exchange shortly after the results were released. ($1=$0.98 Canadian) (Reporting by John McCrank; editing by Janet Guttsman)

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