Brunswick Corp today reported sales of US$974.2m for its first quarter ended March 31, 2012, down one per cent compared to the same quarter a year ago. The company reported net earnings of US$39.7m compared to US$27.5m for the same quarter a year ago.

“Short-term financial performance continues to improve, even as we make increased investments for long-term organic growth,” said Dustan E. McCoy, chairman and CEO, in a statement. “We are pleased to see US marine industry retail demand up in the first quarter, with strong growth in the aluminum and fiberglass outboard categories.”

Sales in the Marine Engine Segment fell two per cent to US$489.4m for the quarter. Operating earnings of US$47.9m, including restructuring charges of US$1.7m, compared to the year-ago quarter’s earnings of US$57.7m, including US$4.3m in restructuring charges.

International sales in the Mercury Marine engine division, representing 39 per cent of overall sales, were down seven per cent for the quarter. US outboards as well as Mercury’s P&A business were higher during the quarter, but the growth was more than offset by declines in its global sterndrive segment.

Brunswick said it increased outboard production during the quarter compared to a year ago. But it also experienced "operating constraints" from “stern-drive ramp-up issues” following the plant consolidation from its former MerCruiser facility in Oklahoma.

The Boat Segment reported sales of US$306.4m for the quarter, an increase of one per cent compared to a year ago. Operating earnings were US$2.8m for the quarter, compared to a loss of US$4.8m a year ago.

International sales, which represented 38 per cent of total sales, decreased by seven per cent in the quarter. Boat segment production and wholesale unit shipments increased compared to the same period a year ago. The increase in shipments was partially offset by a higher mix of smaller boat sales and the absence of sales from the Sealine brand, according to the statement.

Brunswick lifted its 2012 earnings per share expectation to the range of US$1.40 to US$1.50 per diluted share. McCoy said factors that “negatively affected sales and earnings” in Q1 would continue into the second quarter, but that the company is planning for “significant sales and earnings growth” in the second half of the year.