Illinois Tool Works (ITW), owner of foodservice equipment brands Hobart and Foster among others, has begun the year in sprightly fashion by reporting a 6% rise in sales.
The company revealed today that organic sales in Europe slipped 1% during the quarter, but 7% organic growth in North America and the contribution of acquisitions made over the last year meant revenues tipped the $4.5 billion (£2.8 billion) mark.
The NYSE-listed outfit posted an operating profit of $705m (£437m) during the quarter, up 7% on the previous year.
ITW operates a number of divisions but did not break out the performance by segment.
“Our strong first quarter operating performance reflects a number of ITW attributes: balanced geographic footprint, our established 80/20 operating discipline and our return-based approach to allocating cash to both our businesses and our shareholders," stated David Speer, chairman and CEO.
He added: “Both our first quarter earnings and operating margins exceeded our expectations and our return on invested capital was within our target range. Despite uneven end market demand in Europe, we remain optimistic about our full-year prospects.”
ITW also revealed it had returned more than $600m (£372m) to shareholders through a share repurchase of $474m (£293m), leaving it with $3.4 billion (£2.1 billion) remaining in its share repurchase authorisation at the end of the first quarter.
The company said that due to the “better-than-expected” results and share repurchase activity, it is raising its forecast for 2012 full-year diluted income per share from continuing operations.