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Audi Targets Steady 2012 Earnings After Beating Mercedes

Audi Targets Steady 2012 Earnings After Beating Mercedes
An Audi Q5 automobile is seen as it passes through the final inspection area at the Audi AG plant in Ingolstadt. Photographer: Guenter Schiffmann/Bloomberg

Audi AG, the world’s second-largest maker of luxury vehicles, is targeting 2012 profit “on par” with last year’s record results as higher sales offset increased spending on new models and factories.

Operating profit surged 60 percent to 5.35 billion euros ($7.14 billion) last year from 3.34 billion euros in 2010, the Volkswagen AG brand said today in Ingolstadt, Germany. Revenue rose 24 percent to 44.1 billion euros, boosted by a 37 percent gain in deliveries in China, its largest market.

“For 2012 as a whole, we plan to achieve an operating profit that will be on a par with the record year of 2011, despite higher expenses,” Chief Financial Officer Axel Strotbek said in a speech. The target depends on the economic environment “not changing significantly.”

Audi’s earnings underscored its status as the number-two in luxury car sales after passing Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz in deliveries last year. The VW unit, which has a goal of overtaking leader Bayerische Motoren Werke AG by 2015, posted a profit margin of 12.1 percent, outpacing the 9 percent return on sales at Mercedes.

“The outlook is comparable with Mercedes, but Audi has the greater chance of beating that with higher earnings,” said Juergen Pieper, a Frankfurt-based analyst with Bankhaus Metzler. “Last year was certainly a top result.”

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Volkswagen rose as much as 2.40 euros, or 1.7 percent, to 142.75 euros and was up 1.5 percent as of 12:21 p.m. in Frankfurt trading. The stock has gained 23 percent this year, valuing the German carmaker at 62.3 billion euros.

To fuel its expansion, Audi plans to spend a record 13 billion euros over the next five years to develop new models and increase production capacity, including expanding a factory in Hungary and building a new plant in China. The company will make a decision on where and when to set up a U.S. factory by this summer, Chief Executive Officer Rupert Stadler said today.

This year, Audi plans to grow faster than the 4 percent expansion of the global auto market, boosted by 18 vehicle introductions, including a new generation of the A3 hatchback and a four-door version of the A1 subcompact. Sales in China and the U.S. will probably grow at double-digit percentage rates this year, Stadler said.

To continue growth in China, Audi aims to extend its reach to smaller cities by nearly doubling the number of sales outlets there by 2013, sales chief Peter Schwarzenbauer said.

Audi sold more than 200,000 vehicles worldwide in the first two months of 2012, an 8 percent increase from the previous year, Stadler said, adding that carmaker will likely achieve its goal to sell 1.5 million cars annually before its target in 2015.

Delivery times currently average about four months, according to Schwarzenbauer.

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