When it comes to the American half of its newly merged company, investors will have to decide whether the glass is half empty for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
That’s because the cost of completing the acquisition of suburban Detroit-based Chrysler bludgeoned the trans-Atlantic maker’s earnings. But the Chrysler side also delivered a healthy 11% increase in FCA’s overall revenues.
Legally headquartered in the Netherlands, Fiat Chrysler is reporting that its 2014 net profit fell by two-thirds, to 632 million Euros, or $718 million. For 2013, the maker had a restated net of 1.9 billion Euros. For the final quarter of 2014, the maker earned 420 million Euros, down from 1.2 billion during the same period in 2013.
On a per-share basis, FCA generated 47 cents in earnings, down from 74 cents per share in 2013. A consensus of industry analysts had forecast a figure of 50 cents.
On the positive side, global revenues came in at 96.1 billion Euros, or $108.9 billion in 2014, compared with 86.6 billion euro, or $98.3 billion, the year before. Revenues rose sharply on the Chrysler side, largely driven by a 15% increase in North America, where the numbers reach 52 billion Euros. Chrysler also gained slightly in a European market just beginning to emerge from a long and deep recession.
Demand for new sport-utility vehicles and pickups were a major factor in those gains, the Jeep brand breaking through the 1 million sales mark for the first time ever. The goal is to now reach nearly 2 million with new products like the compact Renegade.
(Renegade set to lead Jeep’s global expansion. Click Here for the story.)
Even then, the 495 million Euro cost of purchasing the remaining shares of Chrysler stock from a union health car trust took a toll across the company. In North America, operating earnings – calculated prior to factoring in taxes, interest and other extraordinary items – fell 4 million Euros, to 617 million, or $838.5 million.
The earnings numbers were in line with FCA’s earlier forecast. But investors were initially wary of the results, FCA shares traded on the NYSE briefly dipping below $13 a share in pre-market trading. They rebounded into positive territory by mid-morning on Wednesday.
Fiat shares have surged by nearly 50% since the company began trading on the New York Stock Exchange on October 13th.
The burst in demand for light trucks and crossovers has been especially helpful to Chrysler’s Jeep and Ram brands, but it also helped the company overall to reach combined sales of 4.6 million new vehicles last year. FCA is predicting that will reach 4.8 million in 2015.
CEO Sergio Marchionne has warned that Fiat Chrysler still needs to grow well beyond that level. During a May strategy briefing he outlined plans to reach volumes of 7 million vehicles annually by 2018.
(“Ruinous practices” threaten the auto industry, warns Marchionne. Click Here for more.)
While that target was expected to come from the growth of all key Fiat Chrysler brands, comments made by the chief executive during a Detroit Auto Show media briefing this month have led some analysts to speculate that FCA might be seeking a third major automotive partner.
Automakers, he said, “need to bring down the cost of execution to de-risk their businesses.” One way to do that, he added, is through further consolidation which would allow product and component sharing on a grand scale.
FCA USA LLC, the carmaker’s American unit, will report its own earnings next Tuesday.
(FCA’s Alfa Romeo brand is gearing up for growth – slowly. Click Here for the story.)