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Volkswagen Q4'18 operating profit dips YOY as carmaker ramps up EV push

Volkswagen AG on March 12 reported that operating profit before special items fell 0.3% in the fourth quarter of 2018 from the same period a year earlier.

The German carmaker said for the three months to Dec. 31, 2018, operating profit before special items dipped slightly to €3.80 billion from €3.81 billion in the year-ago period, but beat the S&P Global Market Intelligence consensus estimate of four analysts for EBIT of €3.61 billion.

After special items, operating profit fell 4.2% to €3.05 billion from €3.18 billion in the fourth quarter of 2017. Revenue increased 3% to €61.27 billion compared with €59.49 billion in the year-ago period. Vehicle deliveries to customers fell 7.9% in the fourth quarter to 2.70 million from 2.94 million the year prior, the company said.

In lunchtime trading in Frankfurt, Volkswagen shares were down 1.36% at €144.56.

As reported in its preliminary full-year 2018 earnings released Feb. 22, Volkswagen confirmed that basic earnings per ordinary share for the 12 months to Dec. 31, 2018, rose to €23.57 from €22.28 in 2017. Operating result before special items increased 0.4% to 17.10 billion from 17.04 billion but fell just short of the Market Intelligence consensus estimate for EBIT of 17.12 billion.

The company also confirmed that it expects to increase sales revenue by 5% in 2019 and report an operating return on sales of 6.5% to 7.5%.

Volkswagen announced separately on March 12 that it expects 22 million vehicles to be built on the group's electric car platforms by 2028 instead of the 15 million previously forecast. It has said it will make the platform available to other manufacturers, which will help boost profitability by spreading development costs over higher sales volumes.

Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess said in a press conference broadcast online following the results' publication that 2018 had been a particularly difficult year with the introduction of the new exhaust emissions testing standard WLTP that required manufacturers to re-certify all their cars and make some modifications to their product ranges.

Diess said electrification was the only means by which automakers could meet forthcoming EU targets for CO2 emissions reductions. The executive called on policymakers to facilitate the creation of the necessary public infrastructure for this.

The CEO also said the company eventually aimed to have a 5% share in the North American market but had not set a deadline by when it hoped to achieve this. The company's performance in Brazil was "back on track" after a "dramatic restructuring" of the business there, Diess said.

Volkswagen Group is seeking to open a manufacturing plant in Eastern Europe that would build models from across the group's passenger car brands, which include Audi, Skoda and SEAT, as well as luxury Porsche and Bentley brands.