BMW said it expected to match the profits of 2002, on the strength of its new models, including the X3 and new 5-Series.

BMW said it expected to match the profits of 2002, on the strength of its new models, including the X3 and new 5-Series.

reported that BMW chief executive Helmut Panke said it was not easy to give a proper forecast due to the uncertainties in the world market as a result of the Iraq crisis. Panke said sales should be good provided the situation in Iraq was resolved soon.

Finance chief Stefan Krause said earlier that the company's profit would be weaker in the first half due to development and launch costs of a number of new products.

"Launch costs are going to be high and keeping earnings constant under these circumstances is quite an achievement," Sal Oppenheim autos analyst Michael Raab told . "It tells you something about the earnings power of the company."

But an increase in profits is expected in the second half of 2003 as BMW unveils the updated 5-Series saloon, the little X3 sports-utility vehicle and the 6-Series coupe.

BMW said the 5-series would be launched in September. Sales of the outgoing 5-series were down 11 per cent in 2002 ahead of the launch of the new version.

Panke said he expected the continued high demand for the Mini to lift BMW sales in the first quarter, but said the company expected a drop in its own brand sales to 215 000. This would be a drop of about eight per cent.

BMW’s pre-tax earnings rose 1,7 per cent to about R28 billion in 2002. Net profits rose 8,3 per cent to about R17 billion.

Read CAR magazine for a preview of the next 3-Series, expected in 2004. The magazine goes on sale on March 24.

Original article from Car