Feb. 6 - Daimler upped its dividend and improved margins at its Mercedes-Benz division. The CEO tells Reuters a push into China is paying off. Hayley Platt reports.
New models helped Daimler drive home a 45 percent rise in fourth-quarter earnings. Profitability for the maker of Mercedes luxury cars was up 8 percent from 5 the previous year. The boost was better than expected and helped raise the company's quarterly revenues to 32 billion euros. Net profit was down 36 percent thanks to extra costs involved in rolling out its C-Class model. And the sale of a stake in EADS. But CEO Dieter Zetsche says a push into China is paying off. SOUNDBITE: Dieter Zetsche, CEO Daimler, saying (English): "We're growing faster and faster from month to month in China. In January we had 45 percent increase. These are good developments and they're the result of a lot of changes we have undertaken in China. Of course like in other markets, product is the most important element." The German auto maker has been struggling to match rivals BMW and Volkswagen Audi for scale and efficiency in smaller cars. Last year it fell to third place in the luxury car sales rankings. It's now closing the gap, thanks to new designs. But the effects of the euro zone debt crisis remain. And now some emerging markets are causing concern too. SOUNDBITE: Dieter Zetsche, CEO Daimler, saying (English): "We see that some of the emerging markets are more in danger because of their particular fiscal and capital situation but overall we do believe that even in more difficult market conditions our products are strong that we can gain market share." Mercedes-Benz has some way to go to catch up with its German rivals. But its shares rose 4% after the new results and it insists it's on track to be the number one luxury car maker by 2020.