Volkswagen, the world's biggest car-maker, has bounced back to profitability thanks to luxury car buyers in China and Europe

Reuters
·3 min read
FILE PHOTO: An employee fixes a VW sign at a production line of the electric Volkswagen model ID.3 in Zwickau, Germany, February 25, 2020. REUTERS/Matthias Rietschel
VW hosts photo workshop at Zwickau plant Reuters
  • Volkswagen, the world's largest carmaker, returned to profit in the third quarter, thanks to surging demand for luxury cars such as Porsche and Audi in western Europe and China.

  • But VW's chief financial officer, Frank Witter, warned that "the coronavirus remains a central problem."

  • VW said although its full-year 2020 profit would be "severely lower" than in 2019, it would still be in "positive territory" after a second-quarter loss of 1.7 billion euros ($1.99 billion).

  • A series of cost-cutting measures launched earlier this year helped VW's performance during the third quarter.

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Volkswagen has returned to profit in the third quarter, as surging Chinese demand for luxury cars helped offset a 1.1% drop in vehicle deliveries due to the COVID-19 crisis.

VW's return to profitability came amid a spike in coronavirus cases in Europe that prompted the French and German governments to order their countries back into strict national lockdowns on Wednesday.

"The coronavirus remains a central problem," VW's chief financial officer, Frank Witter, said in a conference call with reporters. "This situation now is anything but relaxed."

The German carmaker reiterated it expects to post a profit for the full year, saying that its business "recovered noticeably" in the quarter as sales in China of its premium vehicles, including Audi and Porsche sports cars, rose 3%.

Due to market volatility the carmaker would not issue a more specific full-year profit forecast, Witter said. During the third quarter, VW's performance was aided by a series of cost-cutting measures launched earlier this year.

VW said its net liquidity rose to 24.8 billion euros ($29 billion) from 18.7 billion euros ($21.85 billion) at the end of the second quarter. Excluding one-time items, its third-quarter operating profit was 3.2 billion euros ($3.84 billion), down from 4.8 billion euros ($5.61 billion) a year earlier.

VW reported a 5.4% adjusted operating return on sales in its automotive division, rebounding from minus 5.8% in the second quarter. However, this was below the 7.4% it recorded a year earlier. Revenue fell 3.4% to 59.36 billion euros ($69.35 billion).

The company said while its full-year 2020 profit would be "severely lower" than in 2019, it would still be in "positive territory" after a second-quarter loss of 1.7 billion euros ($2 billion).

In a note to clients, Philippe Houchois, an analyst at financial services company Jefferies, described VW's results as a "solid performance with strong cash but relatively muted in the context of the (auto) sector recovery".

The auto industry has rebounded well from lockdowns that closed production plants and dealerships.

Last week Daimler AG reported a record 24% jump in Chinese demand for its Mercedes-Benz cars, boosting its margins in the third quarter.

Italian-American car maker Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and Peugeot manufacturer PSA Group both posted solid results this week, ahead of their planned merger next year.

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