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BMW Profit Sinks on Weaker Markets, $1.6 Billion Provision

Automotive unit swings to loss for first time since 2009.

BMW AG’s automotive division swung to a loss for the first time in a decade as car prices slumped and a legal provision over alleged collusion ballooned to 1.4 billion euros (US$1.6 billion).

Excluding the set-aside, earnings at the carmaker’s main unit fell by 42% to 1.1 billion euros in the first quarter. Price competition in some markets and spending on new technology cut into profit, the luxury carmaker said Tuesday in a statement.

To deal with the pressures, BMW in March announced a 14 billion-euro savings plan, culling models and cutting development time. While the second half of the year should improve with sales of new 3-Series and X7 sport utility vehicle, trade tensions are on the rise again.

BMW will contest the allegations on collusion on cleaner-emission cars by the European Commission with all legal means possible, it said.

New Models

“We are experiencing the impact of high levels of expenditure in numerous areas affecting the entire automotive sector,” Chief Executive Officer Harald Krueger said. We “expect business to benefit from tailwinds, especially in the second half of the year, as numerous new models become available.”

Group earnings before interest and tax declined 78% to 589 million euros, with the result at the “light end” of expectations, Jefferies analyst Philippe Houchois said in a note.

BMW fell 0.9% to 73.34 euros at 9:03 a.m. in Frankfurt trading. The stock has gained 3.7% this year, compared with a 18% rise in the Stoxx 600 Automobiles & Parts Index.

More Tariffs?

U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday threatened more tariffs on Chinese goods that could prompt retaliatory actions. BMW exports SUVs from its plant in the U.S. to China that are already hit with increased tariffs.

BMW caps a mixed earnings season for carmakers. Volkswagen AG’s profit excluding special items rose, defying falling sales in China while Daimler AG, reporting a 16% profit decline, warned it would be tougher to meet annual targets.

BMW reiterated its outlook for the year, expected earnings before tax to fall “well below” the year-ago level while deliveries will rise slightly. The automotive return on sales is expected to drop to between 4.5% and 6.5%, from an already lowered target of 6% to 8%.

By Oliver Sachgau

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