* CEO sees "no signs of trend reversal" in core European mkt
* Daimler to update group profit guidance with Q1 results
* Credit Suisse says full-year targets lasted just 9 weeks
* Daimler looks back at "lost decade" -fund manager
By Hendrik Sackmann
BERLIN, April 10 German premium carmaker Daimler
said it might cut its 2013 profit expectations this
month, sparking sharp criticism from shareholders gathering for
Wednesday's annual meeting, as Europe's car market shrank at an
Daimler has fallen far behind German rivals BMW
and Audi due to deep-seated problems in China, and
the latest profit warning is another dent in the credibility of
Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche, whose contract extension in
February nearly ended in a boardroom coup.
"Not much tailwind is anticipated from the markets in the
coming months. For Europe in particular, there are no signs of a
trend reversal," Zetsche said, adding Daimler would reassess
whether its previous assumptions for 2013 were still valid when
it reports first-quarter results on April 24.
Credit Suisse said it had not in any case trusted the CEO's
previous guidance of flat adjusted operating profit of roughly
8.1 billion euros, and said even its conservative estimate of an
unadjusted 7.9 billion might be at risk.
"This means that management will need to update FY13
guidance that they provided on 7th Feb, i.e. guidance lasted
some nine weeks," the bank said in a research note on Wednesday.
Investors hauled Zetsche over the coals for presiding over a
dismal stock price development since he took over as CEO in
January 2006. Since then Daimler stock is broadly flat at about
40 euros, while Volkswagen has tripled in value and BMW stock is
up 80 percent.
"We shareholders are looking back at a lost decade. Not
Daimler, but rather BMW and Audi are the benchmarks in the
premium segment today, since Stuttgart rested too long on the
laurels of the past," said Ingo Speich, portfolio manager at
He called on the supervisory board to support management
efforts to swiftly implement cost cuts, after labour leaders on
the board forced Daimler to move Mercedes production boss
Wolfgang Bernhard to its trucks division as the price for
supporting the extension of Zetsche's contract.
"A bitter power struggle rages behind the curtains," Speich
said, demanding labour ceases to cause uproar in the boardroom
and instead support a much-needed change in corporate culture.
Daimler's profit warning echoes Tuesday's bearish comments
from Italy's Fiat, a mass-market maker that also owns
the upscale Alfa Romeo, Maserati and Ferrari brands.
Fiat Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne said the company's
losses in Europe could be worse than expected this year, after
estimates that the western European market shrunk by roughly 10
percent in the first quarter.
Car sales data from the first three months showed that
Daimler's flagship Mercedes-Benz brand continues to lag BMW and
Audi, with volumes shrinking in Europe and China.
Analysts have repeatedly questioned whether Mercedes can
achieve its goal of overtaking its two German rivals to become
the world's largest luxury carmaker by 2020 so long as its sales
growth in China continues to undershoot theirs.
In February Daimler had forecast second-half group results
would improve on the first six months, citing momentum from new
model launches like the key S-Class launch and a package of