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Daimler has Q4 loss of €1.53 billion

GERMAN automaker Daimler AG today reported a €1.53 billion fourth-quarter loss and warned that sales of its marquee Mercedes-Benz cars would decline through 2009 because of the economic meltdown's pinch on the automotive industry.

The loss for the Stuttgart-based maker of Mercedes-Benz, Smart and Maybach compares to a profit of €1.7 billion a year earlier.

Sales slid 12 percent, to €23.2 billion compared with €26.5 billion a year earlier as the number of vehicles the company sold fell 17 percent to 480,055 compared with 575,353 a year earlier.

For the full year, the automaker earned €1.4 billion, down 65 percent from €4 billion in 2007. The 27 analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had predicted an annual profit of €3 billion.

Sales on the year dropped 4 percent to €95.9 billion compared with €99.4 billion.

The automaker said vehicle sales in 2008 dipped 1 percent to just more than 2.07 million sold compared with 2.08 million in 2007.

Daimler shares dropped more than 3.6 percent to €22.69 in Frankfurt after the results were released.

Looking ahead, the company said that global demand for automobiles could drop by another 10 percent this year as the global slump puts a damper on new car purchases not just in traditionally strong markets such as Europe and the United States, but emerging markets in China, India and the Middle East, too.

The malaise, the company added, was expected to be felt in its commercial trucks unit, too.

"Prospects for the major markets for commercial vehicles are also unfavorable," Daimler said in a statement, noting that the decline was likely to be acute in western Europe where the industry is "at the beginning of a distinct cyclical downturn phase, which will particularly affect sales of medium and heavy-duty trucks."

The global economic slowdown will also "dampen demand for commercial vehicles also in the growth regions of Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America. In the major emerging markets therefore, distinct market contraction is expected in all commercial-vehicle segments for the first time in many years."


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