Rockwell Reaches Three-Month High With 2012 Sales Gain Seen

Rockwell Automation Inc. (ROK) climbed to the highest since July after projecting 2012 sales growth that may exceed analysts’ estimates on demand from automobile, food and beverage producers.

Revenue may increase 5 percent to 9 percent, the maker of factory-automation software and products said today as it posted quarterly earnings. That compares with the average of 5 percent among analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Operating margins may be 18 percent, Milwaukee-based Rockwell said.

Customers such as automakers are rebounding from a low in 2008, and sales to food and beverage companies also are increasing, Rockwell said. Chief Executive Officer Keith Nosbusch said he is prepared for “bolt-on” acquisitions priced in the tens of millions to “a couple hundred million dollars.”

“We certainly believe there will be opportunities and we want to make sure we have a robust pipeline,” Nosbusch said in an interview. “That’s one of the reasons we want to make sure we also have an appropriate balance sheet so that we can take advantage of those opportunities as they come about.”

Rockwell rose 6.5 percent to $74.33 in New York, the highest closing price since July 27. The gain was the second- largest advance among companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

Automation Investment

“There is an ongoing need for automation investment in developed markets,” Nosbusch said on a conference call with investors. “In emerging markets, the case for automation is even more compelling. There still is a need for infrastructure investment.”

Sales increased in every region last quarter, buoyed by a rebound in auto production in the U.S. and Toyota Motor Corp. (7203)’s recovery from the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March, Nosbusch said in the interview. Europe’s sovereign-debt crisis remains a risk, because it is damping capital spending, he said.

Rockwell, occasionally an object of speculation as an acquisition target, isn’t for sale, Nosbusch said.

Earnings for the fiscal fourth quarter of $1.39 a share beat the $1.21 average of 12 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Rockwell said net income rose 54 percent to $201.8 million from a year earlier. The company forecast per-share profit of $5.05 to $5.45 a share in 2012 on sales of $6.2 billion to $6.5 billion.

Analysts expected earnings next year of $5.17 a share, the average of 13 estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

“The clean beat and encouraging sales-growth guidance for fiscal year 2012 should be well received by investors,” wrote Julian Mitchell, an analyst with Credit Suisse in New York who has an “outperform” rating on the stock.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rachel Layne in Boston at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ed Dufner at

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