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Daimler First-Quarter Profit Surges on Mercedes Car Gains

Daimler

Daimler AG, the world’s third-largest maker of luxury vehicles, reported a 95 percent surge in first-quarter profit that beating analyst forecasts on demand for new models such as the Mercedes-Benz CLA sedan.

Earnings before interest and taxes rose to 1.79 billion euros ($2.47 billion) from 917 million euros a year earlier, the Stuttgart, Germany-based company said in a statement today. The figure was higher than the 1.71 billion-euro average of 11 analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Revenue climbed 13 percent to 29.5 billion euros.

“These are exceptionally good numbers,” said Hans-Peter Wodniok, a Kronberg, Germany-based analyst with Fairesearch. “The volume growth, especially in cars, and higher average prices have helped tremendously.”

Mercedes increased deliveries in the first quarter at a faster pace than Bayerische Motoren Werke AG and Volkswagen AG’s Audi, as the Daimler unit shows progress in its effort to regain the top spot in global luxury-car sales. The growth push involves rolling out 30 Mercedes models by the end of the decade, including a dozen all-new vehicles.

Bearing Fruit

First-quarter Mercedes deliveries jumped 15 percent to 374,300 vehicles, lifted by a 71 percent surge in demand for the top-of-the-line S-Class sedan and a 28 percent gain in sales of compact models such as the GLA sport-utility vehicle, which went on sale in March. Deliveries of segment-leading BMW and No. 2 Audi each rose 12 percent in the period. All three German luxury-car makers are targeting record sales in 2014.

“Our strategy is paying off; our investments are bearing fruit,” Chief Executive Officer Dieter Zetsche said in the statement. “As the year progresses, we will continue working systematically on our profitable growth path.”

Daimler stuck to a target to report Ebit from ongoing business this year that “significantly” exceeds 2013’s 7.9 billion euros. The company is also forecasting “significant” increases in sales. The German automaker’s stock has gained 7.8 percent this year, valuing the carmaker at 72.5 billion euros.

The Mercedes cars unit, which also makes the Smart two-seater, more than doubled first-quarter Ebit to 1.18 billion euros from 460 million euros a year earlier. Lifted by sales gains in China and the U.S. and cost cutting as part of a 2 billion-euro savings program, the profit margin widened to 7 percent of sales from 3.3 percent a year earlier.

Coupe-Style SUV

To help meet its goal of boosting margins to at least 10 percent, Mercedes is in talks to sell some sales outlets in Germany and is considering creating a separate entity for other wholly owned dealerships in its home country. Daimler employs about 15,000 people at 158 sales and service locations in Germany. The retail operations have top margins of about 2 percent, said Ilse Kestin, an IG Metall union representative.

As well as streamlining operations, Mercedes is looking to add more evocative models. Last week at the Beijing auto show, the brand unveiled a pre-production version of a coupe-style SUV to take on models like the BMW X6. The sporty crossover with a low, sloping roofline will go into production next year.

First-quarter Ebit at Daimler, also the world’s biggest truckmaker, included a 118 million euro charge related to the sale of its 50 percent stake in Rolls-Royce Power Systems Holding GmbH, formerly known as Tognum. The manufacturer agreed in March to dispose of the holding, which is valued at 2.43 billion euros, to focus on auto making. The transaction is expected to close by September.

Daimler’s earnings were also burdened by 161 million euros in costs related to hedging its shares in electric-car maker Tesla Motors Inc.

(Source: Bloomberg)