Daimler earnings rise to 4 billion euros

By Anastasia Tomazhenkova: German automaker Daimler AG posted that its net income rose to 4 billion euros (5.83 billion dollars) in 2007 as sales surged to nearly 100 billion euros (145.86 billion dollars) on demand for its upscale sedans and SUVs.

The Stuttgart-based maker of Mercedes-Benz, Smart and ultra-luxury Maybach models earned 4 billion euros (5.83 billion dollars). It was only a slight gain from 3.8 billion euros in 2006, due largely to a 2.2 billion euros (3.21 billion dollars) charge this year related to the spinoff of its U.S.-based Chrysler division in August.

Sales rose to 99.4 billion dollars (144.98 billion dollars) from 99.2 billion euros, with 2.1 million automobiles sold globally.

Shares of the company rose 1.17% in early Frankfurt trading, before settling back to a 0.45% gain, to 54.00 euros (78.76 dollars) in the afternoon.

For the fourth quarter of 2007, the company's income jumped to 1.7 billion euros (2.48 billion dollars) from a net loss of 12 million euros in the quarter a year earlier, driven by strong earnings from the company's Mercedes-Benz and trucks units.

The company's Mercedes-Benz unit, which produces the Mercedes-Benz, Smart and Maybach brands, reported a rise in earnings of 1.43 billion euros (2.09 billion dollars) for the quarter, up from 978 million dollars for the same period in 2006. And the company expects future growth.

"We want to be not only more efficient, but to achieve profitable growth and tap new markets," CEO Dieter Zetsche told reporters.

Daimler trucks, the world's largest producer of commercial vehicles, saw earnings rise to 512 million euros (746.8 million dollars) in the fourth quarter, up from 279 million euros in the previous year.

Daimler's earnings before interest and taxes, or EBIT, for the quarter more-than doubled to 1.39 billion euros (2.03 billion dollars), as compared with 550 million euros in the same period of 2006.

Overall EBIT for 2007 came in at 8.71 billion euros (12.7 billion dollars), compared with 4.99 billion euros the previous year, the company said in a statement, adding that it was hurt by the U.S. dollar's weakness against the euro.

The company, which spun off its Chrysler unit last year, also said it would increase its dividend to 2 euros (2.92 dollars) per share from 1.50 euro (2.19 dollars) per share.

In a show of appreciation for the strong results, Zetsche said the company would pay each of its 131,000 employees a bonus of 3,750 euros (5,470 dollars).

Daimler changed its name from DaimlerChrysler in September, after the company sold an 80.1% stake in Detroit-based Chrysler to Cerberus Capital Management LP, bringing an end to a nearly nine-year deal that failed to reap the anticipated benefits.

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