January 20, 2013 / 1:15 PM / in 5 years

Daimler chief Zetsche says expects to stay on as CEO

FRANKFURT, Jan 20 (Reuters) - Daimler Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche expects his contract to be renewed after his current term as head of the car and truck maker expires at the end of this year, he told a German newspaper.

Investors grew increasingly worried last year about Daimler’s inability to close the performance gap with rivals Audi and BMW, prompting media speculation about Zetsche’s future.

“At the moment there are good indications that I will continue as the head of Daimler,” Zetsche told Welt am Sonntag newspaper in an interview.

Daimler’s supervisory board would take a decision on renewing his contract in February, he said.

The maker of Mercedes premium cars issued a profit warning in October, saying it was facing “significantly more difficult market conditions”.

A source close to Daimler’s supervisory board told Reuters in November that the problems would not stand in the way of renewing Zetsche’s contract when the current one expires on Dec. 31.

The German automotive group has promised 2 billion euros ($2.7 billion) in cost cuts at Mercedes by the end of 2014, the bulk of which to be front-loaded.

“I assume that we will be able to sell significantly more cars in the future and that our productivity will rise,” Zetsche told the paper.

“Overall, the number of employees should remain largely constant,” he added.

Zetsche also said he was satisfied with the group’s shareholder structure, saying the risk of a takeover “belonged to the realm of the imagination”.

Following a Chinese media report earlier this month that China Investment Corp (CIC) was interested buying a stake in the company, Zetsche told reporters at the Detroit auto show on Monday that he was not aware of such plans and was not in talks with the investor. ($1 = 0.7524 euros) (Reporting by Jonathan Gould; Editing by Louise Heavens)

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