The Volvo logo on a car grille Michael Kovac, Getty Images

FINANCIAL ROUNDUP: Volvo Gears Up for ‘Global Transformation’

Plus, Audi and Mercedes-Benz set annual sales records in 2015. ... Samsung flags 15% increase in Q4 operating profit.

STOCKHOLM, Sweden — Volvo, which isowned by the Chinese Geely group, said on Friday that it had turned the corner towards becoming a major international player as it posted record unit sales.

Volvo said it had sold over half a million cars in 2015 — 503,127 exactly — its highest annual sales figure ever, representing a rise of 8% over the previous year. The sales data mark the end of the first stage of Volvo’s recovery, begun after it emerged from a loss-making period in 2013.

“Volvo is about to enter the second phase of its global transformation. Once completed, Volvo will have ceased being a minor automotive player and taken its position as a truly global premium car company,” company chief Haakan Samuelsson said. “More records will tumble in coming years.”

Volvo has made no secret of its ambition to compete head-on with leading global high-end brands, like Audi, BMW, Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz.

Mercedes, Audi sales top new records in 2015

FRANKFURT, Germany — Audi and Mercedes-Benz reported record sales in 2015 on Friday, even holding their own in China despite difficult market conditions. Mercedes-Benz, flagship brand of Daimler, said it sold 1.872 million vehicles worldwide last year, an increase of 13.4% over the previous year. Rival Audi, the high-end brand of embattled auto giant Volkswagen, said it sold 1.803 million cars, up 3.6% year-on-year.

“Last year, we sold more cars than ever before,” Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said. ”We were able to increase our unit sales in all three core regions – Europe, NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and Asia-Pacific. And with 373,459 units sold, China developed into our biggest individual market worldwide in 2015. With growth there of 32.6%, Mercedes-Benz grew significantly faster than the overall automobile market.” 

Daimler said Mercedes-Benz launched more than 15 new or updated models in China last year, where it also expanded the dealer network to approximately 500 dealerships. Local production capacities were also expanded.

At Audi, which has been affected by the massive pollution-cheating scandal that has engulfed its parent company VW, sales growth was more modest: “2015 has proved that Audi is solidly on track and that we are able to master a year that presented various challenges very successfully,” CEO Rupert Stadler said.

Samsung Flags 15% Increase in Q4 Operating Profit

SEOUL — Samsung Electronics noted a 15% increase in 2015 Q4 operating profit on Friday, rounding off a year in which the world’s largest smartphone producer struggled with fierce competition from rival Apple and cut-rate Chinese competitors. 

In an earnings estimate, the South Korean tech giant predicted an operating profit of 6.1 trillion won ($5.05 billion) for the October-December period, up from 5.4 trillion won ($4.47 billion) a year earlier. The figure was below the estimate of 6.64 trillion won ($5.50 billion) given by analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News, and also marked a 7.5% drop from the previous quarter.

Samsung lost more than $8.0 billion in market value in 2015, with its flagship smartphone business sandwiched by top-end rivals like Apple’s iPhone and lower-end devices from fast-growing Chinese outfits like Huawei and Xiaomi.

The company’s shares posted a third straight annual decline last year, dropping 5.1%. Sales were expected to be 53 trillion won ($43.89 billion) in the fourth quarter, the company said, again slightly below analyst estimates.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2016

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