| DaimlerChrysler CEO Dieter Zetsche in Berlin on Wednesday. (Reuters)
Berlin, April 12 (Reuters): DaimlerChrysler will retain a stake of at least 15 per cent in aerospace group EADS for the long term, the world’s fifth-biggest carmaker said on Wednesday, giving a concrete number for the first time.
DaimlerChrysler is in the process of lowering its stake to about 22.5 per cent.
“We aim to support this growth (at EADS) and to remain a major shareholder with a stake of at least 15 per cent,” chief executive Dieter Zetsche told the annual shareholders meeting.
“Should we eventually decide to reduce our share to 15 per cent we will strive to maintain the balance between German and French shareholders,” he added in his first address to Daimler investors since he became CEO at the start of the year.
Zetsche reiterated that DaimlerChrysler expected improved profitability in 2006 and continuing increases in operating profit in the years to follow. It is expected to give a more detailed 2006 forecast with first-quarter results on April 27.
DaimlerChrysler shares fell 1 per cent to 46.85 euros, while the DJ Stoxx European car sector index retreated 0.9 per cent. EADS stock fell 1.7 per cent.
DaimlerChrysler had said last week it would sell a 7.5 per cent stake in EADS to focus more on its core business.
It struck a forward sales agreement with banks that will lower its stake in EADS to 22.5 per cent as part of a carefully co-ordinated move with fellow EADS investor Lagardere of France.
Daimler has said the 7.5 per cent EADS stake sale would boost net income by about 1 billion euros ($1.2 billion) in 2007.
On other subjects, Zetsche said sales growth at premium division Mercedes Car Group might beat forecasts this year.
“We aim to match last year’s sales in 2006, but with a better model mix. And when you look at our sales figures for the first quarter, the year as a whole could turn out even better than our expectations,” he said.
First-quarter unit sales rose 12.2 per cent to 295,000 vehicles as Mercedes-Benz brand deliveries advanced 17.5 per cent to 266,000 and Smart minicar sales fell 20.7 per cent to 29,000.