Daimler profits revive after weak start to the year

BERLIN Fri Jul 12, 2013 12:16pm EDT

Daimler AG Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche (C), finance chief Bodo Uebber (R) and Daimler Trucks chief Andreas Renschler pose for the media before the start of the company's annual news conference in Stuttgart February 7, 2013. REUTERS/Michael Dalder

Daimler AG Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche (C), finance chief Bodo Uebber (R) and Daimler Trucks chief Andreas Renschler pose for the media before the start of the company's annual news conference in Stuttgart February 7, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Michael Dalder

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BERLIN (Reuters) - German automaker Daimler (DAIGn.DE) said its second-quarter operating profit more than doubled as it booked a one-off gain from selling its stake in aerospace group EADS and the Mercedes division bounced back from a weak start to 2013.

Stuttgart-based Daimler has struggled to match German rivals BMW (BMWG.DE) and Volkswagen's (VOWG_p.DE) Audi for scale and efficiency in smaller cars or to equal their success in China.

But the world's third-largest premium car manufacturer has begun a new phase of model roll-outs and is hacking away at its cost base with a goal of 2 billion euros in savings by the end of next year, with one-third of that expected in 2013.

Excluding the 3.2 billion euros it made on the EADS EAD.PA sale, Daimler earned 2.0 billion euros before interest and tax, up from 917 million euros in the first three months of 2013.

Three analysts had expected a figure of 1.7 billion euros on average.

Shares in Daimler rose 5.6 percent to 52.06 euros in Frankfurt after the results release, which came almost two weeks ahead of schedule.

The company said it expected to exceed its first-half EBIT in the second half of the year.

"The implication clearly is that Daimler is bouncing back" from the first quarter, said Frankfurt-based Bankhaus Metzler analyst Juergen Pieper. "Cost savings and forthcoming model releases should underpin a second-half uptrend."

Daimler's overhauled flagship Mercedes-Benz S-Class will hit European dealerships in the third quarter then rolled out overseas in the fourth.

For now, its profits are yet to return to the levels seen a year ago - EBIT undershot the 2.2 billion euros seen in the second quarter of 2012.

The Mercedes luxury-car division earned 1.04 billion euros in the latest quarter, 21 percent less than a year ago, reflecting an ongoing slump in core European markets and the company's distribution problems in China.

Daimler reaffirmed a full-year forecast that 2013 earnings would fall short of last year's 8.125 billion euros, a level it had previously aimed to reach again this year.

The Stuttgart-based carmaker's move to sell its EADS holding came after EADS shareholders approved changes in its ownership structure earlier this year, allowing Daimler to exit the company.

EADS was formed in 2000 from the merger of several European aerospace companies, including Daimler's DASA. The German carmaker received a 30 percent stake after EADS's creation, scaling it down over time.

Daimler did not report second-quarter net profit. It is due to publish detailed quarterly results on July 24. ($1 = 0.7668 euros)

(Additional reporting by Maria Sheahan; editing by Tom Pfeiffer)

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