* European demand for cars, trucks weaker than expected
* Robust Mercedes sales growth in China not seen soon
* EADS stake sale possible starting from July
* Shares in Daimler down 2.4 pct, lag sector
(Adds CFO comments)
By Hendrik Sackmann
STUTTGART, Germany, March 28 Germany's Daimler
AG 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
"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.
Shares in Daimler extended their losses, trading 2.4 percent
lower by 1516 GMT, trailing a 1.1 percent drop in the European
Uebber 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," the Daimler CFO said, adding that
truck markets in the United States and Japan were also rather
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 ($906.2 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.
On Wednesday, Daimler said it would book a 1.34 billion euro
non-cash gain in the second quarter from the revaluation of its
remaining 7.5 percent stake in EADS after a loss of
influence forced it to change the method used to account for the
A source familiar with the matter told Reuters this could
materialise into a cash gain, since the company aimed at
realising the paper profits by selling the last portion of EADS
shares on its books in the course of the second half.
Uebber confirmed what the source said, indicating that the
cash was already being budgeted into his plans for this year in
order to help fund the dividend payout in April of next year.
"The inflow from the sale of our EADS stake that is possible
starting from July means that I expect our cash flow to be
positive overall in 2013," the Daimler CFO told Reuters.
"So along with the earnings from our continuing business,
the planned sale of our remaining EADS shares will support our
dividend policy," he said.
Uebber also indicated that the company was not planning any
job reductions simply in order to achieve its 2 billion euro
cost cutting programme at Mercedes by the end of next year.
"We could take advantage of natural fluctuation and become
more efficient with the same workforce, in view of lower
assembly times and rising car sales volumes. There are no
decisions over job cuts at Mercedes-Benz Cars," he said.
"We will reach this year's planned target of saving 30
percent of the overall 2 billion euros," Uebber added.
($1 = 0.7824 euros)
(Writing by Christiaan Hetzner; Editing by Maria Sheahan and