Daimler earns $3 billion in first quarter on strong China sales

Daimler has announced a very strong pre-tax profit of $3 billion for the first quarter of 2011, up significantly compared to its Q1 2010 profit of $1.76 billion. The hefty earnings come as Mercedes-Benz sales shot up 13 percent, while revenue jumped by 17 percent to $37 billion on the quarter. Post-tax earnings came in at $1.75 billion, nearly doubling 2010 totals.

A sales increase of 13 percent and with revenues up 17 percent, it's safe to say that Daimler is selling more expensive Mercedes-Benz models these days. The automaker says S-Class sales are up by 25 percent, due mainly to demand in China, while overall sales in the People's Republic are up 78 percent versus Q1 2010.

Daimler is looking to move 1.3 million Mercedes-Benz and Smart models in 2011, up slightly from sales of 1.28 million in 2010. But by 2015 the automaker plans to bump sales to 1.5 million units in part because of A-Class and B-Class variants that will begin hitting the market this year. Hit the jump to read over the Daimler press release.

[Source: Daimler | Image: Michael Harley/AOL]
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First-quarter net profit nearly doubles to €1,180 million (Q1 2010: €612 million)
Revenue significantly higher than in prior-year at €24.7 billion (Q1 2010: €21.2 billion)
Net liquidity of the industrial business increases to €12.4 billion
Further growth in unit sales and revenue anticipated for 2011
Affirmation of guidance for 2011: EBIT from ongoing business expected to be significantly higher than in 2010

Stuttgart – Daimler AG (stock-exchange symbol DAI) made an excellent start to the year 2011: Earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) for the first quarter amounted to €2,031 million (Q1 2010: €1,190 million), which is 71% above the figure for the prior-year period.
The positive EBIT development led to a significant improvement in net profit to €1,180 million (Q1 2010: €612 million). Earnings per share increased to €0.99 (Q1 2010: €0.65).

"We achieved excellent earnings in the first quarter. This puts us well ahead of our planning and confirms our positive outlook for the year 2011," stated Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars.

"We are on the right track. We want to delight our customers with fascinating products and strong brands, and we intend to continue our profitable growth. To go new ways successfully, we are building on our proven strengths: continuous innovation, new technologies and an outstanding team. We are consistently implementing this strategy," stated Zetsche.

The very positive development of earnings is a reflection of the ongoing upward trend in nearly all the Daimler Group's divisions. Mercedes-Benz Cars, Daimler Trucks and Mercedes-Benz Vans increased their unit sales compared with the prior-year period in all major regions. Daimler Financial Services profited in particular from lower cost of risk.

In connection with the natural disaster in Japan, expenditures of €49 million were recognized at Daimler Trucks and €29 million at Daimler Financial Services; any insurance compensations have not yet been taken into consideration.

Daimler will remain watchful in the future, so that it can react quickly and flexibly to global challenges such as the tragic disaster in Japan.

Group unit sales up by 15% in the first quarter
In the first quarter of 2011, Daimler sold 461,700 cars and commercial vehicles worldwide, surpassing the prior-year figure by 15%. The Group's first-quarter revenue increased by 17% to €24.7 billion. Adjusted for exchange-rate effects, revenue grew by 15%.
The net liquidity of the industrial business increased to €12.4 billion as of March 31, 2011.
At the end of the first quarter of 2011, Daimler employed 261,718 people worldwide (March 31, 2010: 254,779). Of that total, 164,131 people were employed in Germany (March 31, 2010: 161,449).
Details of the divisions
Mercedes-Benz Cars continued its very good business development of 2010 in the first quarter of this year. The car division increased its unit sales compared with the prior-year period by 12% to 310,700 vehicles (Q1 2010: 277,100). First-quarter revenue increased by 20% to €13.9 billion.
With EBIT of €1,288 million in the first quarter, the Mercedes-Benz Cars division improved its earnings compared with the prior-year period by 60%. Its return on sales was 9.3% (Q1 2010: 7.0%).
The main factor contributing to this earnings improvement was further growth in unit sales, especially in the premium and luxury segments and with SUVs. Especially in China, the Mercedes-Benz Cars division was able to significantly increase its unit sales due to its attractive product portfolio. The very good product mix and improved pricing as well as positive currency effects also contributed to the strong earnings.
There were negative impacts on earnings from increased prices of raw materials, increased use of materials in connection with the ramp-up of new vehicles, as well as from higher research and development expenditure.
Daimler Trucks posted significant growth in unit sales in the first quarter of 2011: The number of trucks sold increased by 27% to 89,300 units. Revenue of €6.2 billion was 28% higher than in the first three months of last year.
The division's EBIT of €415 million was also significantly better than the prior-year earnings of €130 million. The return on sales was
6.6% (Q1 2010: 2.7%).
This earnings improvement is primarily due to the good business development, in particular in the markets of Western Europe and the United States. There was an opposing, negative impact on first-quarter earnings from high advance expenditure for the current product offensive. Due to the natural disaster in Japan, charges on earnings of €49 million were recognized in the first quarter of 2011. These charges are primarily related to damaged assets and production losses in March 2011.

Mercedes-Benz Vans increased its unit sales compared with the first quarter of last year by 16% to sell 54,000 vehicles of the Sprinter, Vito/Viano and Vario models. Revenue of €2.0 billion was also significantly higher than the prior-year figure of €1.7 billion.

The division achieved an operating profit (EBIT) of €173 million (Q1 2010: €64 million). Its return on sales improved to 8.8%, compared with 3.8% in the first quarter of last year.

The positive development of earnings was mainly the result of the ongoing market recovery and significantly higher unit sales, especially in Germany, China and Turkey.

Worldwide unit sales by Daimler Buses of 7,700 buses and bus chassis were below the prior-year figure of 8,400 units. Revenue amounted to €831 million (Q1 2010: €1,011 million).

The division's EBIT amounted to minus €33 million (Q1 2010: plus €41 million) and its return on sales was minus 4.0% (Q1 2010: plus 4.1%). Due to lower unit sales (-8%), the division was unable to match the earnings achieved in the prior-year period. The business with complete buses in Western Europe and North America was particularly affected, as the development of the city-bus segment was significantly weaker than in the prior year for market reasons. In Latin America, the prior-year quarter had been positively affected by deliveries on major orders. Negative currency effects also contributed to the drop in earnings.

At Daimler Financial Services, worldwide contract volume decreased compared with the end of 2010 by 3% to €61.7 billion. Adjusted for exchange-rate effects, contract volume was almost unchanged. New business developed positively and grew compared with the first quarter of 2010 by 11% to €6.9 billion, or by 8% after adjusting for currency effects.

With EBIT of €321 million, the division significantly surpassed its earnings of the prior-year period (Q1 2010: €119 million). The improvement in earnings was mainly caused by lower risk provisions and higher interest margins. Due to the natural disaster in Japan, write-down charges of €29 million were recognized for anticipated losses of receivables.

The reconciliation of the divisions' EBIT to Group EBIT primarily reflects the proportionate share of the Daimler Group's equity-method investment in EADS, as well as other gains and losses at the corporate level.

In the first quarter of 2011, Daimler's proportionate share of the net result of EADS amounted to a profit of €74 million (Q1 2010: loss of €269 million). The prior-year loss was primarily the result of provisions recognized by EADS relating to the A400M military transport aircraft.
The reconciliation also includes expenses of €191 million at the corporate level (Q1 2010: income of €26 million), partially related to legal proceedings.

Outlook for 2011 affirmed
Based on current estimates, the Daimler Group expects to post significantly higher EBIT from its ongoing business in 2011 than in 2010. Developments in the first quarter have shown that Daimler continues to make good progress toward the targeted rates of return that it intends to achieve on a sustained basis as of the year 2013.

Following the substantial increase in 2010, Daimler expects its total revenue to continue to grow in 2011. That growth will probably be driven by all the automotive divisions. On the basis of the divisions' planning, Daimler anticipates a significant increase in total unit sales (2010: 1.9 million vehicles).

In view of the continuation of generally good market prospects combined with numerous model changes and new products, Mercedes-Benz Cars assumes that the Mercedes-Benz brand will increase its unit sales to a new record of more than 1.2 million cars in 2011. Thanks to its up-to-date and competitive model range, the division will profit also in the year 2011 from strong demand for the E-Class models and from the market success of the S-Class. Unit sales in the remaining quarters of 2011 will continue to be above the volumes of the prior-year periods.
The new-generation C-Class sedan and station wagon and the new SLK roadster have been providing additional sales impetus since late March 2011. The C-Class coupe will be launched in June, followed by the new model of the M-Class in September and the roadster version of the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG in the fourth quarter. And in November, the division will launch the new B-Class – the first of four new models in the compact-car segment. For the smart brand, unit sales are anticipated at roughly the same level as in 2010 due to the full availability of the new generation of the smart fortwo.

At the same time, in order to secure its growth, Mercedes-Benz Cars is investing in the expansion of its production network, continuing its product offensive and intensifying the development of new technologies. This includes the joint venture between Daimler and Toray to produce and market automotive parts made of carbon fiber and the cooperation with Bosch on the development of electric motors for cars.

Daimler Trucks assumes that it will increase its unit sales substantially in 2011. Aided by the general economic recovery and the expected related growth in demand for transport services and vehicles, most of its major markets will grow at significant rates. The division will participate in the continuous market growth in Western Europe and will maintain its leading position in the heavy- and medium-duty segment. For the NAFTA region the sales forecast is supported by market share gains in all of Classes 6-8, as well as the excellent order situation. Following the recent events in Japan, the situation in that market is very difficult and hard to forecast due to the lack of clarity about future developments. But Daimler Trucks will strengthen its position in other parts of Asia, especially in the large Chinese market and in other fast-growing emerging markets.
In addition, capacities in Brazil and Turkey are being expanded, thus improving the availability of trucks in those markets.

The division anticipates further growth in unit sales in the coming quarters compared with the prior-year periods. This assessment is supported by the current order situation. At the Daimler Trucks division, orders received by Trucks Europe/Latin America increased by a double-digit percentage and at Trucks NAFTA they actually quadrupled compared with the prior-year quarter.
The Mercedes-Benz Vans division also expects to achieve further growth in unit sales in full-year 2011, on the basis of the ongoing recovery of its most important markets. The launch of the Sprinter in China and the adjustment of production capacities in Argentina will additionally contribute to that growth.

Daimler Buses expects to sell more than 40,000 complete buses and bus chassis in the year 2011. However, the increase will be due solely to the positive development of chassis sales in Latin America. The business with complete buses in Europe and North America is likely to remain weak.
Daimler Financial Services anticipates a further increase in its worldwide contract volume and new business in full-year 2011. Credit-risk costs are expected to stabilize this year, but interest rates are likely to increase.

Due to the strong demand for its products, the Daimler Group assumes that the worldwide number of employees will increase compared with the number at the end of 2010.
The special items shown in the following table affected EBIT in the first quarter of 2011 and 2010:

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