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Delphi Automotive said Thursday its net income rose 11.5 percent to $1.35 billion in 2014. The automotive supplier said it made $344 million in the fourth quarter.

The England-based auto supplier with a large operational base in Troy said it earned $4.48 a share in 2014, up 15 percent, and fourth quarter earnings of $1.16 a share rose 20 percent. Factoring in special items, fourth quarter earnings were up 18 percent to $1.32 a share and earnings for the year were $5.09 a share, up 16 percent. That beat analysts’ estimates by 5 cents a share.

“Our balance sheet, obviously, is extremely fortress-like,” said Delphi CEO and President Rodney O'Neal during a call with news media Thursday. “We’ve generated some outstanding investor returns.”

O'Neal said 2014 was “another great year.” Revenue increased 3 percent compared to the previous year to $17 billion, with better than average growth in North America and Asia.

During the fourth quarter, Delphi bought back 5.04 million shares of stock for about $350 million.

The company said it expects to continue its financial success in 2015, with revenue ranging between $4.15 billion and $4.25 billion in the first quarter and between $17.1 billion and $17.5 billion for 2015.

“We’re extremely confident, based on the momentum we’ve created in 2014, that our earnings outlook for 2015 will occur as we’ve outlined,” O’Neal said. “We’ve got a lot to be excited about.”

Part of that excitement is thanks to its growing active safety business. Active safety revenue last year increased about 30 percent from 2013 to 2014.

Delphi Chief Operating Officer Kevin Clark said the company sees “tremendous growth” and opportunity in active safety and autonomous driving technologies.

“It certainly will be, over the near-term, our fastest-growing product area,” he said, adding the company booked about $1.4 billion of active safety business in 2014.

Delphi’s stock, traded under DLPH, closed Wednesday at $72.75 a share, up a penny. As of 11:25 a.m., shares were trading up 3.3 percent to $75.16.

2014 was the last for O’Neal leading Delphi. The auto industry veteran will retire in March. Clark, his successor, thanked O’Neal for his service.

“Truly under his leadership, Delphi has established a track record of terrific execution with the customers and, as you all know, tremendous value creation for our shareholders,” he said. “Going forward, we’re confident that we have the right strategy, that we have the right management team, that we have the right formula to build on our accomplishments and drive continued success.”

O'Neal's automotive industry experience began as a student in 1971 at General Motors Institute (now Kettering University). He later worked for GM, holding a number of engineering, production and manufacturing supervisory positions. He joined Delphi in 1997. He became CEO and president in 2005.

Overall, O’Neal said he sees the state of the supplier industry very robust, with relationships being “better than ever” with automakers.

mburden@detroitnews.com

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