BMW warns of pandemic risks as third-quarter profit rebounds

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – BMW’s BMWG.DE third-quarter profit rose almost 10% thanks to Chinese demand for luxury cars, but the German automaker warned a new wave of coronavirus infections sweeping Europe and the United states posed a “considerable” risk to its business.

FILE PHOTO: The BMW logo is seen on a steering wheel during the media day of the 41st Bangkok International Motor Show after the Thai government eased measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Bangkok, Thailand July 14, 2020. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

Sales of luxury cars reached a new record in the quarter, but the cautious outlook sent BMW shares lower on Wednesday.

“After a more stable phase in the economic environment in the third quarter, the pandemic is now clearly regaining momentum,” BMW said.

“If the pandemic takes an even more serious course and the global economy experiences a perceptible downturn, the risk exposure could be considerable, particularly on the demand side.”

BMW shares dropped 3.1% in early trade, underperforming Germany’s blue-chip DAX .GDAXI index.

Like rival Mercedes DAIGn.DE, BMW’s quarterly pretax profit recovered in the third quarter, rising 9.6% to 2.46 billion euros ($2.87 billion), lifted by an 8.6% increase in deliveries of luxury cars.

The automotive EBIT (earnings before interest and tax) margin rebounded to 6.7%, from minus 10.4% in the second quarter and 6.6% a year earlier.

“BMW beat mostly on earnings quality with auto margin recovering to year ago level,” Jefferies analyst Philippe Houchois said, pointing to prudent cost management, lower R&D spending and a rebound in demand from China.

Deliveries of BMW-branded vehicles jumped of 9.8% during the quarter, mainly thanks to a 31% spike in China, which helped offset a 15.7% drop in demand in the United States, where the pandemic has hit sales.

BMW reiterated it expected to achieve an automotive EBIT margin of 0%-3% this year.

Despite a recovery in demand in some markets, overall deliveries of high-end vehicles as well as group pretax profit are expected to be significantly lower than last year, it said.

($1 = 0.8581 euros)

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