* Daimler raises 2017 sales forecast for Mercedes
* Reiterates U.S. diesel investigations could lead to
* Daimler shares flat
(Adds comment by CFO, detail on outlook for financial services
and on diesel probe)
FRANKFURT, April 26 German luxury car
manufacturer Daimler AG raised its forecasts on
Wednesday, predicting a significant rise in operating profit
this year after a surge in sales of Mercedes-Benz luxury cars
and sports utility vehicles, boosted by the launch of new
Daimler said it now expected significant growth in volume
sales, revenue and group earnings before interest and tax (EBIT)
this year after its first-quarter net profit doubled to 2.8
billion euros ($3.1 billion).
"We are very confident for the remainder of the year to
achieve our financial as well as our strategic goals," Daimler's
Chief Financial Officer Bodo Uebber said in a statement.
In February Daimler had said it expected only slight growth
in group EBIT, but record sales of Mercedes passenger cars in
the first quarter helped the Stuttgart-based carmaker produce
Mercedes launched the new version of its E-Class saloon last
year, with volume sales since gaining traction. In March alone
sales of the new model rose by 65 percent and Daimler said on
Wednesday it now expected a significant rise in sales of
Mercedes-Benz Cars for the full year.
Daimler's group EBIT jumped 87 percent to 4.01 billion euros
($4.25 billion) in the first quarter, thanks in part to 690
million euros in one-off gains.
EBIT at Mercedes-Benz Cars rose 60 percent to 2.23 billion
euros, delivering a return on sales of 9.8 percent after the
division reported a 15 percent rise in first-quarter sales.
Daimler raised its forecast for its financial services
division, saying it now expects a slight increase in EBIT this
Daimler published key first-quarter earning figures earlier
this month, revealing that profits were lifted by
the revaluation of a stake in mapping company HERE, as well as
by the sale of some real estate and the reversal of an
impairment charge on its stake in Chinese carmaker BAIC
A stricter interpretation of EU financial reporting
guidelines has forced Daimler to start giving forecasts based on
unadjusted numbers, increasing the scope for one-off gains and
losses to distort consensus in the short term.
Daimler also reiterated on Wednesday that recent steps taken
by the U.S. authorities to investigate diesel emissions
pollution and so-called auxiliary emission control devices could
lead to significant penalties and vehicle recalls.
In view of the tough penalties imposed by the U.S.
authorities on rival German carmaker Volkswagen for
conspiring to cheat on diesel-emission tests, and after U.S.
authorities issued a notice of violation against Fiat Chrysler,
Daimler said it could face similar risks.
"It cannot be ruled out that the authorities might reach the
conclusion that Mercedes-Benz diesel vehicles have similar
functionalities," Daimler said in its quarterly report.
The inquiries and investigations were continuing , Daimler
said, and the outcome could not be predicted.
"If these or other inquiries, investigations, legal actions
and/or proceedings result in unfavourable findings, an
unfavourable outcome or otherwise develop unfavourably, Daimler
could be subject to significant monetary penalties, remediation
requirements, vehicle recalls, process improvements and
mitigation measures," the company said.
Authorities in various countries have widened investigations
into the possible use of illegal diesel emissions-control
software since Volkswagen agreed to pay the largest-ever U.S.
criminal fine levied on an automaker in January.
In March the Stuttgart prosecutor launched an investigation
into Daimler employees on suspicion of fraud and misleading
advertising tied to vehicle emissions.
In January the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency accused
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV of illegally using hidden
software to allow excess diesel emissions to go undetected.
($1 = 0.9137 euros)
(Reporting by Edward Taylor; Editing by Greg Mahlich)