* BMW Q4 automotive EBIT 1.77 bln euros vs 1.68 bln forecast
* Q4 automotive EBIT margin 9.2 pct
* Proposes raising dividend to 2.60 per common share
* Shares rise as much as 2.8 percent (Adds details on which products, regions drove sales)
FRANKFURT, March 13 (Reuters) - BMW aims to sell a record 2 million cars or more this year, the world’s largest luxury carmaker said, after posting better-than-expected results and raising its payout to shareholders.
The German carmaker said operating profit at its core automotive division fell 14 percent in the last three months of 2013, despite higher sales, due to spending on fuel-efficient technology and model launches. Analysts had expected a steeper fall.
The investment drive, which includes the launch of the i3 electric vehicle and the next generation of the Mini, will help BMW increase sales again this year in the face of stiff competition from rivals Audi and Mercedes-Benz .
“We forecast further sales volume growth in the current year which will again bring us a new all-time high,” Chief Executive Norbert Reithofer said on Thursday.
In 2013, BMW delivered 1.96 million cars with BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce registering record deliveries, driven by a 19.7 percent rise in mainland China and an 8.1 percent rise in the U.S., the company said.
Volkswagen’s Audi delivered 1.57 million cars, while Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz delivered 1.566 million last year.
In terms of models, BMW Group’s sales were boosted by a 23 percent rise in deliveries of the 3-series sedan, stable sales of the Mini and a 1.5 percent rise in deliveries of Rolls-Royce luxury cars.
BMW shares rose as much as 2.8 percent to 82.45 euros outperforming the STOXX 600 automobile index, which was up 1.8 percent.
BMW proposed a lower-than-expected dividend increase for 2013 to 2.60 euros a share for common stock from 2.50 euros in 2012, and 2.62 euros a share for preferred stock. Analysts had hoped for an increase to 2.72 euros on average per common share, according to a Reuters poll.
BMW said its automotive division’s fourth-quarter earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) dropped 14 percent to 1.77 billion euros ($2.46 billion). That was better than the 1.68 billion euros forecast by 12 banks and brokerages polled by Reuters.
The company is set to release detailed earnings and give an outlook for the year on March 19.
BMW’s automotive EBIT margin, the best gauge to compare profitability with peers, was 9.2 percent in the fourth quarter.
That was higher than the 8 percent quarterly return on sales achieved by rival Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz Cars division.
$1 = 0.7192 euros Reporting by Edward Taylor; Editing by Thomas Atkins and Erica Billingham