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Daimler Q4 net loss disappoints markets

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[March 19, 2010]  STUTTGART, Germany (AP) -- German car and truck maker Daimler AG lost euro352 million ($482 million) in the fourth quarter amid the global economic slump, contributing to a larger-than-expected loss on the year and sending shares down sharply.

HardwareThe figure announced Thursday compares with a euro1.53 billion loss in the fourth quarter of 2008, which was due in part to charges at Chrysler LLC, with which Daimler was once merged.

Revenue for the October-December period was euro21.3 billion, down from euro23.2 billion in the fourth quarter of 2008.

For the full year, the company said it lost euro2.6 billion, compared with a net profit of euro1.4 billion in 2008. Revenue was 20 percent lower at euro79 billion from euro98 billion in 2008.

The result was significantly worse than expected by twenty-six analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters, who predicted a loss of euro1.7 billion.

Daimler said its management board has recommended that no dividend be paid for the year.

The news sent Daimler shares down 5.2 percent to euro31.30 in Frankfurt afternoon trading, the worst performer on the DAX index.

Bernstein analysts, however, said the results were not entirely negative considering the economic situation of the last year.

"Daimler's Q4 only met, rather than beat, official consensus with earnings before interest and taxes of euro599 million versus consensus of euro624 million, and fell short of the more bullish forecasts, including our own of euro835 million," Bernstein said in a note to clients.

"We believe Daimler can demonstrate a number of years of incremental improvements as it recovers. We expect Mercedes to be solidly profitable in 2010 and see longer term potential due to further growth in highly profitable emerging markets."

Bernstein rates Daimler stock at "outperform" with a target of euro45.

Daimler, based in Stuttgart, was cautiously optimistic, saying that although the economic crisis is not over, it expects growth in emerging economies to help its business.

"The world economy is still in a period of transition at the beginning of 2010," Daimler said in its report.

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"There is very little hard evidence that a self-sustaining, lasting upswing has actually started. However, the ongoing solid growth of emerging markets such as China and India is exerting a positive influence."

Despite the glum results and outlook, the company reported positive fourth quarter revenue gains compared to the third quarter in all divisions: Mercedes-Benz Cars, which includes the luxury brands Mercedes-Benz and Maybach, as well as the compact Smart brand.

Trucks, vans and buses also reported gains in revenue compared to the third quarter. Daimler is the world's largest truckmaker with brands including Mercedes-Benz, Freightliner, and Mitsubishi-Fuso.

Daimler said it expected to increase unit sales at all the divisions in 2010. The company said the upper-premium automobile segment is likely to be stronger than the overall car market, which is perhaps oversold at the moment because of government fleet renewal schemes, known as cash-for-clunkers in the United States.

The earnings follow an announcement late Wednesday renewing Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche's contract until Dec. 31, 2013.


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[Associated Press; By GEORGE FREY]

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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