VW profits plummets 80 percent in 2009

Volkswagen, the biggest European carmaker, said Friday that 2009 profit plunged by nearly 80 percent in the global slump but predicted that sales and operating profit would rebound this year.

VW profits plummets 80 percent in 2009
Photo: DPA

VW reported a 79.8 percent drop in net profit to €960 million on sales that fell by 7.6 percent to €105.2 billion.

Analysts polled by Dow Jones Newswires had forecast net profit of €986 million, and the news sent VW shares sharply lower in late trading on the Frankfurt stock exchange.

“Revenue and operating profit for 2010 are expected to exceed the prior-year figures” however, the company said in a statement following a supervisory board meeting.

But volatility in interest and exchange rates would continue to dog the net profit figure, the company added.

Although VW sales collapsed last year, the group still benefited from auto scrapping schemes that favoured smaller cars and from a strong presence in China, which is now the auto maker’s biggest market, and in Brazil.

Operating profit nonetheless plummeted to €1.9 billion, a drop of 70.7 percent.

The group said it would propose a dividend payment of €1.60 per ordinary share, down from €1.93 in 2008, and release details of fourth quarter earnings on March 11.

Shares in the group fell by 1.09 percent to €59.92 in Frankfurt trading, while the DAX index was 1.24 percent higher overall.

VW is expected to carry out a rights issue to underpin its bid to overtake Toyota as the world’s biggest automaker by 2018 and possibly help reduce debt at Porsche, the luxury sports carmaker it took over last year.

Details of the rights issue are awaited in the coming weeks and will likely focus on preferred shares, which have no voting rights.

An increase in ordinary shares would affect the holding of Lower Saxony, the German state where VW is based and which owns 21 percent of those shares, giving it a blocking minority position on strategic decisions.

Sanford Bernstein analyst Max Warburton told Dow Jones Newswire that “Lower Saxony and the labour unions have no direct concern for the price or numbers of VW preference share and so are probably content to let institutional investors pay the bill.”

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From lizards to water, eco-bumps snag Tesla’s giant Berlin car factory

In the green forest outside Berlin, a David and Goliath-style battle is playing out between electric carmaker Tesla and environmental campaigners who want to stop its planned "gigafactory".

From lizards to water, eco-bumps snag Tesla's giant Berlin car factory
Tesla's gigafactory outside the doors of Berlin. dpa-Zentralbild | Patrick Pleul

“When I saw on TV that the Tesla factory was going to be built here, I couldn’t believe it,” said Steffen Schorch, driving his trusty German-made car.

The 60-year-old from Erkner village in the Berlin commuter belt has become one of the faces of the fight against the US auto giant’s first European factory, due to open in the Brandenburg region near Berlin in July.

“Tesla needs far too much water, and the region does not have this water,” said the environmental activist, a local representative of the Nabu ecologist campaign group.

Announced in November 2019, Tesla’s gigafactory project was warmly welcomed as an endorsement of the “Made in Germany” quality mark – but was immediately met with opposition from local residents.

Demonstrations, legal action, open letters – residents have done everything in their power to delay the project, supported by powerful
environmental campaign groups Nabu and Gruene Liga.

Tesla was forced to temporarily suspend forest clearing last year after campaigners won an injunction over threats to the habitats of resident lizards and snakes during their winter slumber.

READ MORE: Is Germany’s Volkswagen becoming ‘the new Tesla’ as it ramps up e-vehicle production?

And now they have focused their attention on water consumption – which could reach up to 3.6 million cubic metres a year, or around 30 percent of the region’s available supply, according to the ZDF public broadcaster.

The extra demand could place a huge burden on a region already affected by water shortages and hit by summer droughts for the past three years.

Local residents and environmentalists are also concerned about the impact on the wetlands, an important source of biodiversity in the region.

Tesla Street

“The water situation is bad, and will get worse,” Heiko Baschin, a spokesman for the neighbourhood association IG Freienbrink, told AFP.

Brandenburg’s environment minister Axel Vogel sought to play down the issue, saying in March that “capacity has not been exceeded for now”.

But the authorities admit that “the impact of droughts is significant” and have set up a working group to examine the issue in the long term.

The gigafactory is set to sprawl over 300 hectares – equivalent to approximately 560 football fields – southwest of the German capital.

Tesla is aiming to produce 500,000 electric vehicles a year at the plant, which will also be home to “the largest battery factory in the world”,
according to group boss Elon Musk.

In a little over a year and a half, swathes of coniferous forest have already been cleared to make way for vast concrete rectangles on a red earth base, accessed via the already iconic Tesla Strasse (Tesla Street).

German bureaucracy

The new site still has only provisional construction permits, but Tesla has been authorised by local officials to begin work at its own risk.

Final approval depends on an assessment of the project’s environmental impact – including the issue of water.

In theory, if approval is not granted, Tesla will have to dismantle the entire complex at its own expense.

But “pressure is being exerted (on the regulatory authorities), linked to Tesla’s significant investment”, Gruene Liga’s Michael Greschow told AFP.

In early April, Tesla said it was “irritated” by the slow pace of German bureaucracy, calling for exceptions to the rules for projects that help the environment.

Economy Minister Peter Altmaier agreed in April that his government “had not done enough” to reduce bureaucracy, lauding the gigafactory as a “very important project”.

Despite Germany’s reputation for efficiency, major infrastructure projects are often held up by bureaucracy criticised as excessive by the business community.

Among the most embarrassing examples are Berlin’s new airport which opened last October after an eight-year delay and Stuttgart’s new train station, which has been under construction since 2010.

Brandenburg’s economy minister, Joerg Steinbach, raised the possibility in February that the Tesla factory could be delayed beyond its July planned opening for the same reason.

SEE ALSO: Tesla advertises over 300 jobs for new Gigafactory near Berlin