STUTTGART, March 28 Germany's Daimler
forecast first-quarter operating profit to be significantly
lower than in the last three months of 2012 after premium car
and commercial truck markets were weaker than it expected.
"Operating profit will very clearly be below the level of
the fourth quarter, but that should mark the low point for the
year," finance chief Bodo Uebber told Reuters in an interview at
the group's headquarters on Thursday.
He reaffirmed the group expected a stronger second half at
its flagship Mercedes-Benz premium car business with margins
recovering after an initial drop.
"Demand for cars, trucks and transporters in Europe was more
restrained than we expected," he said, adding that the truck
markets of the United States and Japan were also rather weak.
China also has not been kind to Daimler's Mercedes-Benz
brand of luxury cars, with sales falling a total of 20 percent
in the first two months of 2013.
"It will take longer before Mercedes can return to robust
sales growth in China," said Uebber.
Thanks mainly to a 709 million euro ($906.17 million)
one-off gain from the December sale of a 7.5 percent stake in
EADS, Daimler was able to grow earnings before interest
and taxes (EBIT) year-on-year by 7 percent to 2.32 billion euros
in the fourth quarter, its strongest reporting period of 2012.
Shares in Daimler extended their losses, trading 2.2 percent
lower at 1445 GMT.
($1 = 0.7824 euros)
(Reporting by Hendrik Sackmann; Writing by Christiaan Hetzner;
Editing by Maria Sheahan)