BERLIN -- Daimler AG stuck to its forecast for higher earnings this year as sales prospects for the updated Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan and revamped SLK roadster outweigh the repercussions of last month's earthquake in Japan.
The automaker plans to sell more than 1.3 million Mercedes-Benz and Smart-brand vehicles in 2011 compared with 1.28 million deliveries last year, CEO Dieter Zetsche said Wednesday in a speech at Daimler's annual shareholders' meeting in Berlin.
"So far there are no signs that the global economy has been knocked off the path to recovery in the longer term," Zetsche said.
While the consequences of the deadly tremor on March 11 in Japan and political unrest in North Africa are difficult to predict, "we still assume that the global automotive markets will continue to expand," he added.
Daimler, which owns Japan-based truckmaker Fuso, reiterated that operating profit in 2011 will "significantly" exceed the 7.2 billion euros ($10.4 billion) earned last year.
Daimler's net income last year of 4.5 billion euros marked the carmaker's highest profit since 2002. The manufacturer's shareholders will vote Wednesday on a dividend of 1.85 euros a share for 2010. The payout for the previous year was dropped after Daimler reported a net loss.
Mercedes-Benz, which increased sales 12 percent in the first quarter of 2011, has updated the top-selling C Class with new interiors and cleaner engines and overhauled the hard-top SLK roadster. Mercedes-Benz will also introduce a revamped M-Class SUV this year as well as a new B-Class compact, the first of a line of four small cars.
Daimler aims to sell 1.5 million Mercedes-Benz cars by 2015, a 17 percent jump from last year, as it builds a new factory in Hungary to accommodate an expansion into compact vehicles.
"We are on a path of profitable growth," Zetsche said. "Actual developments are even more positive than expected."
The carmaker and London-based plane-engine maker Rolls-Royce Group Plc are jointly seeking to buy Tognum AG, an engine-manufacturing affiliate of the German company. The bidders said Wednesday that Daimler had tendered its 28.4 percent stake in Tognum, accounting for almost all the investor acceptances as of Tuesday of the 24 euro-a-share offer.
The tender offer started April 6 and is scheduled to expire on May 18. Daimler has repeatedly stated that it expects to obtain more than 50 percent of the stock in the company with the bid, even though it's below the current share price. The transaction will enable Tognum to boost sales and raise market share, Zetsche said Wednesday in Berlin.
The lack of early acceptance from independent shareholders is "the usual course of things and doesn't indicate anything about the success of the offer," Florian Martens, a spokesman for Daimler, said.
Holders of about 30 percent of Tognum stock are seeking a higher price, a person familiar with the situation said April 8.
ING Groep NV, First Eagle Investment Management and Delta Lloyd Asset Management are among investors who have written to Tognum opposing the bid, while others representing about 10 percent of the shares have expressed objections orally, the person said.
Wyser-Pratte Management Co., a shareholding vehicle of U.S. investor Guy Wyser-Pratte, said Tuesday that it opposed the bid terms for Tognum.