August 13, 2008 / 6:13 PM / 9 years ago

UPDATE 1-ATS Automation shares surge on strong earnings

(Adds analyst comments, details)

By John McCrank

TORONTO, Aug 13 (Reuters) - ATS Automation Tooling Systems Inc (ATA.TO) shares jumped 22 percent on Wednesday after the company said revenue from backlog orders helped it record a quarterly profit that caught many analysts by surprise.

The manufacturing and industrial equipment maker earned C$12.9 million ($12.1 million), or 17 Canadian cents a share, up from a year-earlier loss of C$8.9 million, or 15 Canadian cents a share.

Analysts had expected earnings of 2 Canadian cents a share, on average, according to Reuters Estimates.

"The numbers were really good -- well above everyone's expectations with margins better and backlogs up," analyst MacMurray Whale of Cormark Securities Inc said.."

The shares were up C$1.22 at C$6.74 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Wednesday afternoon.

ATS is in the process of restructuring under a board of directors elected last September.

It has said it would spend about C$30 million in efforts to improve profitability through 2009, then concentrate on growth.

The company said it has incurred C$15.9 million of those costs, including charges related to the closure of facilities in Michigan and Thailand, and the wind down of a money-losing segment.

It sold off non-core assets to offset the restructuring charges, and said it plans to do more of the same over the next several quarters.

"There are significant further restructuring activities to come and capital will be spent to improve operating efficiency," Peter Sklar, analyst at BMO Capital Markets, said. "So there is still the potential to improve operating results even further."

Revenue at ATS rose 36 percent to C$212.1 million, lifted by stronger order backlog entering the quarter.

ATS said higher revenue from its health care, computer-electronics and energy sectors more than offset a decline in automotive revenue. ($1=$1.07 Canadian) (Editing by Jeffrey Jones)

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