Autoliv Inc. (ALV), the world's largest maker of seat belts and airbags, Thursday said it swung to a net loss in the fourth quarter as automakers around the world slashed production.

The Swedish-American company said it sees little relief in the near term. For the first quarter of 2009 it expects net sales to drop 45%, including a 40% decline in organic sales. It also expects a negative operating margin of 5% to 7%, excluding restructuring costs.

In Europe, where Autoliv generates more than half of its revenue, light-vehicle production is estimated to have fallen almost 30% in the fourth quarter that ended Dec. 31, the company said. In North America, where it derives almost a quarter of its revenue, light-vehicle production fell by 26%.

Net loss in the quarter ended Dec. 31 was $38.4 million, down from a net profit of $94 million a year earlier. Eleven analysts polled by Dow Jones and FactSet on average had forecast a net loss of $17 million.

Sales fell 33% to $1.19 billion from $1.78 billion a year ago, below analysts' forecast of $1.3 billion. The company also suffered an operating loss of $27.3 million, down from an operating profit of $164.1 million. Analysts had forecast an operating profit of $6.5 million.

At 1118 GMT, Autoliv's shares traded down 2.5 Swedish kronor, or 1.6%, at SEK155.50, outperforming the broader Stockholm market, which was down 2.5%.

   Company Web site: 
   -By Ola Kinnander, Dow Jones Newswires; +46-8-5451-3097; 

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