Fiat lowers 2013 earnings targets after third-quarter losses of 15 million euros

MILAN – Italian carmaker Fiat, which controls Chrysler LLC, lowered its 2013 earnings targets Wednesday after reporting a third-quarter loss due to continued weakness in Europe and lower sales in Brazil.

The mass-market carmaker said it lost 15 million euros (20 million euros) in the period ending Sept. 30, down from a restated 30 million-euro loss in the same period last year. Net profit including assets not wholly owned by Fiat rose 10 per cent to euros 189 million, from 171 million euros in the same period last year.

Without Chrysler, Fiat alone would have lost 247 million euros.

Profits in Latin America were nearly half the same period last year, due largely to lower volumes, particularly in one of Fiat’s core markets, Brazil, which dropped by 22 per cent. Fiat also cited a less favourable product mix and negative currency fluctuations.

The European operations continued to lose money, but less than the same period last year, thanks to some growth in volumes thanks to the success of the 500L and continued cost-cutting.

Fiat lowered its 2013 profit forecasts to a range starting at 900 million euros, instead of at 1.2 billion euros.

Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne told an analyst conference call that the revisions were due mostly to foreign exchange fluctuations.

“I think we have been incredibly and piously diligent in outlining guidance,” Marchionne told an analyst conference call. “We are essentially confirming guidance within the foreign exchange limitation of the original numbers.”

Marchionne also said he would update the company’s 5-year plan, including more details on its car rollouts as he shifts Fiat production in Italy toward higher-margin luxury segment with the Alfa Romeo and Maserati brands.

Marchionne says he plans to launch an initial public offer of U.S. carmaker Chrysler this year after failing to reach a deal to buy out the minority shareholder.

“We are now bent on executing the IPO,” Marchionne told analysts, adding he hopes it can be completed by the end of 2013.

Marchionne indicated that the push for the Chrysler IPO is due to a lack of agreement with a United Auto Workers-run trust over the value of its 41.5 per cent stake. Fiat, which controls Chrysler, has gone to a U.S. court seeking a judgment on the price, but a judge in Delaware set a trial date for next September.

Chrysler shares haven’t been publicly traded since 1998.