BMW Bolstered by Asia as German Port Operator Predicts 6% Shipment Gains

Bremerhaven BLG, the North Sea car terminal that exports two-thirds of autos shipped from Germany, said demand from Asia should be sufficient to increase volumes even if the euro crisis leads to a collapse in European sales.

BLG, which handles the majority of cars exported by Daimler AG (DAI), Porsche AG and Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW), predicts auto shipments will surge more than 20 percent this year to 1.95 million, followed by a gain of about 6 percent to 2.06 million in 2012, sales chief Wolfgang Stoever said in an interview.

Growth in exports -- which account for about 80 percent of overall shipments -- will stem mainly from China, India, Russia and Brazil, as well as the U.S., as markets including France, Spain, Italy and the U.K. stagnate, Stoever said. There’s no evidence for a net decline in outward consignments, even with the sovereign debt crisis stifling European economies, he said.

“The German car industry is still exporting very strongly,” Stoever said. “There’s uncertainty with everybody at the moment but, so far, our planning figures still show optimism and growth and that will continue, unless the whole world breaks apart.”

U.S. Boost

BMW, the world’s No. 1 luxury carmaker, is also “confident for 2012,” Chief Financial Officer Friedrich Eichiner said at a press briefing, predicting “double-digit” percentage sales growth in the U.S., which he reckons will probably overtake Germany as the company’s biggest market in the near future.

BLG, as BLG Automobile Logistics GmbH is known, had record monthly earnings at Bremerhaven in October after processing 201,000 vehicles, mainly because of an “ongoing export boom” from German carmakers which saw outward shipments jump more than 30 percent over the first 10 months, the executive said Nov. 9.

During the first nine months, almost 1.5 million vehicles were exported or imported from the port at the mouth of the River Weser, versus 1.1 million a year earlier, while German car exports should grow 10 percent in 2012, according to Stoever.

While auto shipments are mainly handled by Bremerhaven, other German ports have terminals with smaller volumes, among them Emden -- ranked second -- Cuxhaven and Hamburg, which also said this week that Asian exports will sustain growth in 2012.

Hamburg Rebound

Hamburg regained its status as Europe’s second-biggest container port behind Rotterdam in the first nine months after box volumes rose 15 percent, almost five times the pace of a 3.1 percent gain in Antwerp, Belgium, the regional No. 2 since 2009.

“We don’t expect to see a decline in the seaborne trade with the important markets of China, Asia, America and the Baltic Sea region,” Port of Hamburg Marketing Chief Executive Officer Claudia Roller said Nov. 14 at a press briefing.

Hamburger Hafen und Logistik AG (HHFA), which handles most of the port’s container traffic, traded 0.6 percent lower at 21.53 euros as of 11:40 a.m. in Frankfurt, taking the decline so far this year to 38 percent.

Growth at high-end carmakers has slowed from a record pace in the first half as Europe’s debt crisis unsettles consumers. Daimler, the maker of Mercedes-Benz cars, reported its first earnings drop in two years, while BMW has predicted weaker profit margins in the final three months of 2011.

Europe has made “positive” moves toward debt reduction and what’s needed now is “a clear sign” that countries are serious about getting their finances in order,” said BMW CFO Eichiner, who spoke at a presentation of the sixth generation of the Munich-based company’s best-selling 3-Series sedan in Barcelona.

Structural Change

BMW shares traded 0.8 percent higher at 57.98 euros, while luxury rivals Daimler and Porsche, both based in Stuttgart, were up 2.1 percent and 1.2 percent respectively. Wolfsburg-based Volkswagen AG (VOW), Europe’s No. 1 carmaker, was little changed.

Bremerhaven ships cars to and from North and South America, Asia and Africa, as well as European markets including the U.K., Russia, Norway and Finland, with an about 25 car transporters calling every week at the port or in Bremen, further upriver. The two Bremen Ports together exported 564,000 vehicles in the first half, up 78 percent from a year earlier.

BLG parent BLG Group operates in more than 15 countries from Brazil to India and traces its roots to the Bremen Warehouse Company, founded in 1877. The company provides auto- logistics services at seven German locations and in the Czech Republic, Italy, Malaysia, Poland, Russia, Slovakia and Ukraine.

German auto exports are more likely to be reduced through structural change as carmakers increase the proportion of vehicles built abroad to cut costs and target new markets, Stoever said, though that needn’t hurt overall volumes.

BMW currently makes 62 percent of its autos in Germany and 38 percent overseas and aims to make the ratio 50:50, he said.

“This gives Bremerhaven a chance to import those cars that were previously exported from here,” Stoever said. “So we might see a change in the ratio between the cars volumes exported and the car volumes imported.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Niklas Magnusson in Hamburg at nmagnusson1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Angela Cullen at acullen8@bloomberg.net; Chad Thomas at cthomas16@bloomberg.net

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