Garmin navigates to higher earnings in 1st quarter of 2011

First quarter earnings for Garmin Ltd. topped Wall Street expectations, seeing revenue climb across its various niches.

The Olathe-based satellite navigation company reported Wednesday a 2011 first quarter profit of $95.48 million or $0.49 per share, up from $37.33 million or $0.19 per share a year ago. The gains were driven by a steady demand for GPS-teamed fitness training gadgets and built-in navigation devices in cars and trucks.

That gain was boosted partly by foreign currency exchange gains of $11.96 million, compared with a loss of $38.16 million in the first three months of 2010.

If the foreign exchange were set aside, the companies net income would have risen to $83.52 million compared to $75.49 million in last year's first quarter.

The company's sales for the quarter hit $507.83 million, 18 percent than a year earlier.

Garmin has been reeling in recent years from the growth of smartphones that offer turn-by-turn driving directions much the same way Garmin's popular Nuvi devices can. But the earnings report showed continued growth, especially in the more specialized uses of GPS capabilities such as boating and fitness navigation gadgets.

Still, Garmin's automotive-mobile segment revenue increased 20 percent to $265 million and remained far and away the biggest part of its business.

It's outdoor devices showed a revenue increase of 12 percent to $67 million. Fitness gadgets grew 30% to $56 million. The Garmin marine segment rose 24 percent to $51 million. And aviation rose 5 percent $69 million.

The company's gains were spread around the world. North America is still its largest market, and showed $280 million, up 15 percent. European sales rose 18 percent to $171 million. Asia is its smallest, but fastest growing market, showing a leap of 34 percent to $57 million.

Garmin sold a total of 2.5 million devices, driven mostly by fitness products and factory installed vehicle navigation units.

The company still plans to offer dividends of $2 a share, contingent on a approval at its annual shareholders meeting in June.