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BMW down on 2004 but still a world profit leader

BMW’s financial results for 2005 published last week (March 15) show that it is still one of the most profitable large scale carmakers. Toyota is similar. Only Porsche makes better margins.

Given the way that Mercedes-Benz and VW have been reacting to the high cost of a German domicile, that is a major achievement.

Group profit before tax was €3.3bn (£2.3bn) on sales of €46bn (£31.9bn) for a pre-tax margin of 7%.

Porsche can do double that. Lesser volume carmakers struggle to do half as well. The good result was despite what the chairman Helmut Panke described as a “strong headwind” of difficult conditions.

The sliding value of the dollar kicked €677m (£469m) out of the income line. Still-rising raw materials costs lost them another €237m (£164m).

On top of all that, BMW had to take a write-down on the value of its holdings in Rolls-Royce aero engine business – completely unconnected to the Rolls car business.

To get progress on profit, BMW had to sell more and operate much more efficiently. This was almost achieved – but with a shortfall almost exactly equivalent to the Aero division setback.

Panke was bold in forecasting the future. He disclosed that the company has become a cash-generating machine making €6.2bn (£4.3bn) on its industrial operations compared with only €4.3bn (£3bn) in the year after it stepped out of Rover (in 2000).

That means BMW is well placed to invest for its new model ranges due in 2008 – the so-called Sports Activity Vehicle and the Room-functional Concept. Only six years ago, BMW was getting six ranges out of one brand. Soon it will have 12 out of three.

This year will be the most successful ever, Panke promised. Pretax profit will be more than €4bn. That is despite continuing difficulty with currency and materials costs.

One contribution that will reduce is the British Mini business. As many as 15,000 cars will be lost this year because the plant has to lose shifts to reconfigure the Plant Oxford assembly line.

Because the lines are working seven days a week to keep up with the car’s runaway success, there is no chance to change the process without stopping the line.

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