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4-Traders Homepage  >  Equities  >  Deutsche Boerse AG  >  Audi AG    NSU   DE0006757008

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Daimler Eyes Growth as Mercedes Steps on Gas

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02/05/2015 | 02:26pm CEST

BERLIN-- Daimler AG predicted significant growth for this year thanks to buoyant car demand in China and the U.S., despite a decline in profit in the fourth quarter because of charges.

Operating earnings will rise by more than 10% this year and sales by more than 5%, Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche said on Thursday.

Strong sales of Mercedes-Benz's flagship S-class sedan and a full stable of new and refurbished models are helping Daimler's car division catch up with rival German luxury car makers BMW AG and Audi AG.

Stuttgart-based Daimler aims to retake the top luxury spot by 2020. Mercedes will step on the gas this year, introducing four new or refreshed sport-utility vehicles and a new ultraluxury Pullman sedan.

"Daimler is on an upward curve," Mr. Zetsche said in a statement.

Daimler's operating profit rose to EUR2.82 billion ($3.23 billion) in the fourth quarter, from EUR2.56 billion a year earlier. But a EUR600 million increase in provisions for antitrust proceedings against Daimler's truck division caused net profit to tumble 33% to EUR1.10 billion.

For this year, Mr. Zetsche predicted double-digit percentage car-sales growth in China. The company expects sales to rise also in North America as a result of new models. In Western Europe, it hopes to outpace an expected slight revival in demand. European industry association ACEA said on Thursday that car sales will likely rise this year but at a slowing pace.

In full 2014, Daimler's net profit rose 1.8%, to EUR6.96 billion, as revenue increased 10% to EUR129.87 billion.

Investors reacted positively to the news and shares rose roughly 2%.

Operating earnings of Daimler's car business were higher than average analyst expectations in the fourth quarter, said Commerzbank analyst Daniel Schwarz. He predicted expectations for the group's operating earnings this year will now rise.

Sales of Mercedes S-class models doubled last year. That rise combined with strong demand for Mercedes's compact models lifted overall sales 13%--to 1.65 million vehicles. Mercedes grew faster than BMW and Audi, but still trails its two rivals.

The three German luxury car brands, which control about 80% of global luxury car sales, are in a tight race for the top spot. The three rivals have been fighting for market share in China, the world's biggest car market by volume, by expanding dealerships and introducing new models. Audi is number-two behind BMW world-wide, but is the largest premium brand in China.

Now, with the U.S. car market back to precrisis levels and growing, the German premium brands are set for a battle in the lucrative U.S. luxury segment. Mercedes is targeting surging SUV growth in the U.S. Audi is building a plant in Puebla, Mexico, to produce a new version of its Q5 SUV in 2016 in a drive to become the best-selling premium brand in the U.S.

Daimler expects operating earnings of its truck and van making units' ongoing business to rise more than 10% this year, helped by further revenue growth and efficiency gains. Last year, the truck division's operating earnings jumped 15% as sales increased slightly. The van division's operating earnings rose 8.1% amid a 6.4% revenue increase.

Write to Friedrich Geiger at friedrich.geiger@wsj.com

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Rupert Johann Stadler Chairman-Management Board & CEO
Matthias Müller Chairman-Supervisory Board
Axel Strotbek Director-Finance & Organization
Berthold Huber Deputy Chairman-Supervisory Board
Helmut Aurenz Member-Supervisory Board
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