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BMW's 2006 revenue rises 5%, boosted by new 3-series

Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, the world's largest maker of luxury cars, said sales rose 5% to a record last year after the company introduced new versions of the 3-Series and X3 sports-utility vehicle models.

Revenue increased to €49 billion ($63.4 billion) from €46.7 billion a year earlier, the Munich-based company said in a statement today. BMW, which will release earnings results in March, reiterated that pretax profit will climb to a record €4 billion, helped by a gain from the sale of a stake in airplane-engine maker Rolls-Royce Group Plc. „This should be a very good year for BMW,” said Michael Tyndall, an analyst at Nomura Securities in London who has a „neutral” rating on the stock. „It will have a full year of the new 3-Series, including the coupe and convertible, and the new X5 and Mini, all of which points to a better year than 2006.” CE Norbert Reithofer, who took over from Helmut Panke in September, launched a new X5 SUV and Mini in the second half to maintain sales growth. This year the Munich-based company faces increased competition from DaimlerChrysler AG's new Mercedes-Benz C-Class, which competes with the 3-Series, and Toyota Motor Corp.'s new Lexus LS, a full-sized luxury sedan. The shares rose as much as 66 cents, or 1.4%, to €46.65 and were up 0.6 to €46.27 as of 12:19 p.m. in Frankfurt. The stock has risen 25% over the past 12 months, making it the 11th best performer on Germany's benchmark DAX index.

BMW's Q4 revenue increased 1.7% to €12.6 billion, according to figures provided by spokesman Marc Hassinger. „We want to maintain our position in the current year as the number one manufacturer in the premium segment,” the company said today. For profit, „higher volumes and internal efficiency improvements should, to a large degree, offset the adverse effects from foreign exchange and higher raw material prices.” BMW maintained its lead over Mercedes-Benz luxury division last year. The company boosted BMW-brand sales by 5.2% to 1.19 million vehicles, while sales of the Mini declined 6.2% to 188,072 cars as the factory making the car shifted over to a new version that went on sale in November. Sales at the Rolls-Royce luxury division rose 1.1% to 805 sedans. „2007 looks fairly good because the X5, which is new now on the market, brings a fairly good momentum,” said Juergen Pieper, an analyst at Bankhaus Metzler, which oversees about €30 billion in assets, in Frankfurt. „It's also a high-margin product, so it's probably good for the overall margin of the group.”

BMW last year launched a face-lifted version of the X3 and a new 3-Series coupe, in addition to the new X5 and Mini. The company will introduce two all-new vehicles next year. „The 2006 sales growth was a bit better than I'd feared earlier last year, with some of the gain coming late in the Q4,” said Philippe Barrier, an analyst at Societe Generale in Paris who has a „buy” rating on the stock. Capital expenditure last year rose 8% to €4.31 billion, BMW said today. The workforce increased to 106,575 employees as of December 31, 2006, from 105,798 people a year earlier. Production rose to 1.37 million BMW-, Mini-and Rolls-Royce brand vehicles, an increase of 3.3%. The company expects to sell „more than” 1.4 million cars and light trucks this year. (Bloomberg)