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Daimler, Volkswagen, BMW, Lufthansa Hurt by Recession

May 13, 1993

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) _ Recession is battering the proudest symbols of German economic strength: the country’s biggest industrial company, its largest automaker and its national airline.

Daimler-Benz, Volkswagen, and Lufthansa published bleak figures Thursday that illustrated the depth of the economic downturn in Germany as it strains under the costs of unification. Carmaker Bayerische Motoren Werke (BMW) also reported losses.

The most dramatic numbers came from Daimler, which owns Mercedes-Benz. The country’s biggest industrial concern reported an ″exceptionally unsatisfactory″ collapse of profits.

First-quarter net profit fell by 96 percent - to 20 million marks, or $12.5 million, from 480 million marks in last year’s first quarter.

Industry analysts are pessimistic about recovery this year. The global recession that caught up to Germany over the past year has hit car companies particularly hard.

″I don’t see any turnaround,″ said Klaus-Juergen Melzner, an analyst at DB Research, the economics forecasting arm of Deutsche Bank.

Volkswagen, which is both Germany’s and Europe’s biggest car maker, registered a first-quarter loss of 1.25 billion marks, or $780 million, compared to a profit of 202 million marks a year earlier.

Worldwide sales of new Volkswagen cars fell 13 percent to 759,464 units in the first quarter, while the output in Germany was cut 33 percent to 343,872 cars.

BMW reported a 8.3 percent drop in sales and an 11 percent cut in production in the first four months of the year.

Lufthansa, in which the government holds a majority stake, said it lost 391 million marks, or $244 million, in the first quarter. Deputy Chairman Klaus G. Schlede said he did not expect a return to profitability in 1993.

Daimler, a diverse technology, motor vehicle and aerospace conglomerate, said its sales fell 19 percent, to 18.40 billion marks, or $11.5 billion, from 22.79 billion marks a year ago.

And at Daimler’s largest division, Mercedes-Benz, first-quarter sales plunged 24 percent, to 12.53 billion marks or $7.83 billion.

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