Volkswagen beats forecasts in 2018 despite dieselgate scandal

Volkswagen’s sales of 10.8 million vehicles around the world from its 12 brands brought in €235.8 billion. (Reuters)
Updated 12 March 2019
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Volkswagen beats forecasts in 2018 despite dieselgate scandal

  • Selling 10.8 million vehicles around the world from its 12 brands brought in €235.8 billion
  • ‘We performed very well in spite of strong headwinds,’ chief executive Herbert Diess said in a statement

WOLFSBURG, Germany: Mammoth German carmaker Volkswagen reported Thursday growing profits and revenues in 2018, beating analysts’ forecasts despite enormous charges linked to its “dieselgate” emissions cheating scandal and headwinds from tough new pollution tests.
The Wolfsburg-based group said it boosted its bottomline 6.0 percent year-on-year to $13.7 billion (€12.15 billion), higher than expectations from analysts surveyed by Factset.
Selling 10.8 million vehicles around the world from its 12 brands brought in €235.8 billion, with revenues posting slower growth than profits at 2.7 percent.
And operating, or underlying profit added just 1.0 percent, to €13.9 billion.
“We performed very well in spite of strong headwinds,” chief executive Herbert Diess said in a statement.
One major burden was the WLTP emissions tests, introduced since VW’s 2015 admission that it manipulated millions of cars worldwide to appear less polluting.
The new process’ introduction in September cost VW almost one billion euros by slowing production, a spokesman said, with the effect visible in a fourth-quarter operating result 4.2 percent lower year-on-year, at €3 billion.
Meanwhile the group notched up €3.2 billion in special items to cover costs relating to “dieselgate,” the same as the previous year.
A sizeable chunk of the costs came in Germany as VW paid a group-wide fine of €1 billion, while high-end subsidiary Audi had to forfeit 800 million euros.
Since 2015, legal costs, fines, buybacks, and refits to affected cars have cost VW €29 billion, the group said.
Looking ahead, VW said it had expanded its plans for a vast array of electric models over the coming decade to 70 rather than 50, aiming to sell 22 million battery-powered cars by 2028.
It hopes the offensive will help it meet strict new carbon dioxide emissions requirements in the European Union.
“The share of electric vehicles in the group fleet is to rise to at least 40 percent by 2030” with Korea’s LG, Samsung and SK Innovation and China’s CATL providing the vital battery cells to power the drive.
“Volkswagen is also taking a close look at possible participation in battery cell manufacturing facilities in Europe,” it added.
On a closer time horizon, VW aims for “slightly” higher unit sales this year than in 2018, with revenues “as much as 5.0 percent” higher and an operating profit margin of between 6.5 and 7.5 percent — up from 5.9 percent last year.


Foreign investors hope India dials back policy shocks after Modi win

Updated 24 May 2019
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Foreign investors hope India dials back policy shocks after Modi win

  • Modi’s pro-business image and India’s youthful population have lured foreign investors
  • After Modi’s win, about a dozen officials of foreign companies in India and their advisers said they hoped he would ease his stance and dilute some of the policies

NEW DELHI: Foreign companies in India have welcomed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s election victory for the political stability it brings, but now they need to see him soften a protectionist stance adopted in the past year.
Modi’s pro-business image and India’s youthful population have lured foreign investors, with US firms such as Amazon.com , Walmart and Mastercard committing billions of dollars in investments and ramping up hiring.
India is also the biggest market by users for firms such as Facebook Inc, and its subsidiary, WhatsApp.
But from around 2017, critics say, the Hindu nationalist leader took a harder, protectionist line on sectors such as e-commerce and technology, crafting some policies that appeared to aim at whipping up patriotic fervor ahead of elections.

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“I hope he’s now back to wooing businesses,” said Prasanto Roy, a technology policy analyst based in New Delhi, who advises global tech firms.
“Global firms remain deeply concerned about the lack of policy stability or predictability, this has sent a worrying message to global investors.”
India stuck to its policies despite protests and aggressive lobbying by the United States government, US-India trade bodies and companies themselves.
Small hurdles
Modi was set to hold talks on Friday to form a new cabinet after election panel data showed his Bharatiya Janata Party had won 302 of the 542 seats at stake and was leading in one more, up from the 282 it won in 2014.
After Modi’s win, about a dozen officials of foreign companies in India and their advisers told Reuters they hoped he would ease his stance and dilute some of the policies.
Other investors hope the government will avoid sudden policy changes on investment and regulation that catch them off guard and prove very costly, urging instead industry-wide consultation that permits time to prepare.
Protectionism concerns “are small hurdles you have to go through,” however, said Prem Watsa, the chairman of Canadian diversified investment firm Fairfax Financial, which has investments of $5 billion in India.
“There will be more business-friendly policies and more private enterprise coming into India,” he told Reuters in an interview.
Tech, healthcare and beyond
Among the firms looking for more friendly steps are global payments companies that had benefited since 2016 from Modi’s push for electronic payments instead of cash.
Last year, however, firms such as Mastercard and Visa were asked to store more of their data in India, to allow “unfettered supervisory access,” a change that prompted WhatsApp to delay plans for a payments service.
Modi’s government has also drafted a law to clamp similar stringent data norms on the entire sector.
But abrupt changes to rules on foreign investment in e-commerce stoked alarm at firms such as Amazon, which saw India operations disrupted briefly in February, and Walmart, just months after it invested $16 billion in India’s Flipkart.
Policy changes also hurt foreign players in the $5-billion medical device industry, such as Abbott Laboratories, Boston Scientific and Johnson & Johnson, following 2017 price caps on products such as heart stents and knee implants.
Modi’s government said the move aimed to help poor patients and curb profiteering, but the US government and lobby groups said it harmed innovation, profits and investment plans.
“If foreign companies see their future in this country on a long-term basis...they will have to look at the interests of the people,” Ashwani MaHajjan, an official of a nationalist group that pushed for some of the measures, told Reuters.
That view was echoed this week by two policymakers who said government policies will focus on strengthening India’s own companies, while providing foreign players with adequate opportunities for growth.
Such comments worry foreign executives who fear Modi is not about to change his protectionist stance in a hurry, with one offical of a US tech firm saying, “I’d rather be more worried than be optimistic.”