Fiat: 1Q Net Income More Than Doubled

MILAN, Italy (AP) – Fiat SpA said Monday that its net income more than doubled in the first quarter, due largely to growth in its flagship auto and trucks businesses.

Due to the strong performance, the Turin-based automaker said its full-year earnings will be at the top of the previously forecast range and it also halved its net debt forecast to below $1.35 billion.

Net income came to 358 million euros ($487 million), up from 138 million euros in the same period of 2006. Revenues rose 9 percent to 13.7 billion euros ($18.6 billion), with all businesses up on the previous year.

The main drivers were the auto division, where revenues increased 11 percent to 6.8 billion euros ($9.2 billion) and trucks, which increased 20 percent to 2.5 billion euros ($3.4 billion), Fiat said.

Fiat, Italy’s largest group by revenue, posted the ninth consecutive year-over-year improvement in trading profit _ up 84 percent to 595 million euros ($810 million). Some analysts track the trading profit _ earnings before restructuring costs and one-time items from equity investments _ since net figures may have been skewed by asset sales.

The resurgent auto division recorded its sixth straight quarterly profit, as the once failing automaker continued to accelerate away from the moribund state it was in when it recorded 17 straight quarters of losses and seemed headed for bankruptcy.

The turnaround has been powered by Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne, who has cut noncore businesses, sought strategic alliances to share costs and risk and set an ambitious lineup of new car launches, which includes the introduction of the restyled Fiat 500 in July.

Fiat said it has received 29,000 orders for the new Bravo model, its mid-size model launched in February.

The company is now targeting a group trading profit of between 2.5 billion euros and 2.7 billion euros ($3.4 billion and $3.7 billion) this year, with net income between 1.6 billion euros and 1.8 billion euros ($2.2 billion and $2.5 billion)

Fiat’s shares, which have risen over 80 percent in the last 12 months, were up 1.7 percent to 20.82 euros ($28.33).