BMW Group declared a surprise hike in earnings before interest and taxes in the fourth quarter of 2013 to EUR1.95 billion ($2.72 billion) from EUR1.87 billion in the same period in 2012. The figure topped the EUR1.83 billion average of 10 analyst estimates as surveyed by Bloomberg. BMW saw its fourth-quarter revenue drop 2 percent to EUR20.2 billion.
"We forecast further sales volume growth in the current year which will again bring us a new all-time high," BMW chief executive Norbert Reithofer said in a statement. BMW is pouring more investments in technology and expanding production to stave off challenges posed by rivals Audi and Mercedes-Benz, which are both aiming to take the luxury-sales title by 2020.
The race is stiffening after Audi outsold the BMW brand in the first two months of 2014, while the Mercedes brand outgrown its two larger rivals in recent months. Automotive earnings for the BMW Group – including the BMW, Mini and Rolls Royce brands – dipped to 9 percent of sales in the fourth quarter from 11 percent in the same period a year ago.
For full year 2013, BMW's auto margin was 9 percent, while Audi and Mercedes’ were 10 percent and 6 percent, respectively. “BMW’s numbers look good,” said Erich Hauser, an analyst with International Strategy and Investment Group. “The fourth-quarter margins were stronger than expected.” BMW remarked in November 2013 that spending will remain at a high rate this year.
The carmaker planned to spend around EUR4.8 billion in 2013 to boost production capacity and develop new technology, exceeding its capital expenditure target. Audi CEO Rupert Stadler earlier remarked that competition in the luxury car segment is "more intense than ever." [source: BMW]