Structural material supplier Hexcel Corp. improved its cash flow in the first quarter, in which it included one month of results from the composites operations it acquired from Ciba-Geigy Ltd. ``The increase in gross margin to 21.2 percent from 17.4 percent shows profitability is accelerating,'' said Jeffrey Wiegand, a securities analyst with Robotti & Co. in New York.
The margins were $26.8 million for the quarter ended March 31 and $14.8 million for the comparable 1995 period.
Sales for the respective quarters were $126 million and $85 million.
``Gross margin as a percentage of sales reached its highest level since the third quarter of 1992,'' John J. Lee, Hexcel chairman and chief executive officer, said in a recent news release.
``More [restructuring and consolidation] work must be done, but Hexcel has demonstrated it is capable of adapting to an ever-changing business environment,'' he said.
Hexcel spent $5.2 million on the program in the first quarter, expects a $32 million charge against earnings in the second quarter and anticipates as much as $12 million in related expenses later.
About 8 percent of Hexcel's work force will be cut.
The consolidation program may take as long as three years to complete.
Hexcel has plans to close a portion of a 205,000-square-foot honeycomb and advanced composites facility in Welkenraedt, Belgium; reorganize manufacturing operations in France; consolidate special process manufacturing activities in the United States; and integrate sales and marketing forces.
Those actions are in addition to the previously announced closure of an Anaheim, Calif., facility that was part of the Feb. 29 acquisition from Ciba.
Hexcel's pending $135 million acquisition of Hercules Inc.'s composite products division remains on track to close by June 30.
A definitive agreement was announced April 16.
Hexcel, based in Pleasanton, Calif., will hold its 1996 shareholders' meeting May 23 in Stamford, Conn.