Volkswagen sees 1st-quarter profit fall as weak European economy hurts revenue

BERLIN – Volkswagen AG reaffirmed its full-year earnings outlook Wednesday even after it reported a 38 per cent fall in first-quarter profit as sagging demand in Europe weighed on revenues.

Europe’s biggest automaker said it earned 1.95 billion euros ($3.15 billion) in the January-March period, compared with 3.15 billion euros a year earlier. Last year’s figure was bolstered by a revaluation of share options in sports car maker Porsche, which has become one of the company’s brands.

Nevertheless, the Volkswagen group, whose other brands include Audi, Skoda and Seat, saw its revenue fall 1.6 per cent to 46.6 billion euros from 47.3 billion euros amid “negative effects from declining European markets.”

However, the company did benefit from increasing sales in North America and Asia and the number of vehicles delivered worldwide rose 4.8 per cent to 2.3 million. Volkswagen said it is “not completely immune” to intense competition in the car market and the impact that has on business.

The first quarter was “dominated by the difficult economic environment,” CEO Martin Winterkorn said in a statement. “The markets were sluggish, especially in Europe, and not least in Germany. But we remain confident overall that we can pick up speed over the rest of the year.”

In spite of the uncertainties, Winterkorn said the group was “standing by its goals for 2013.” The company is forecasting that full-year revenue will exceed the 2012 figure and vehicle deliveries to customers will increase. It aims to match last year’s operating profit.

The company’s first-quarter operating profit was down 26 per cent at 2.34 billion euros from last year’s 3.17 billion euros.

Volkswagen shares were up 2.2 per cent at 150.20 euros in early-afternoon Frankfurt trading after the company released its key earnings figures. A more detailed first-quarter report is due for release on April 29.