FRANKFURT -- BMW posted record first-quarter earnings on Thursday that beat even the most optimistic analysts' expectations, helped by strong demand from China and the United States and a surge in sales of its most expensive sedan.
Earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) rose nearly 19 percent to 2.13 billion euros ($2.80 billion) from 1.8 billion euros a year earlier. The overwhelming bulk of this stemmed from its core car business, where EBIT as a percentage of revenue fell slightly to 11.6 percent. Analysts had expected 10.7 percent.
Sales rose 14 percent to 18.3 billion euros.
Results were driven by rising sales of high-margin vehicles including its family of SUVs and, more importantly, the 7-series flagship sedan.
"The BMW Group plans to grow faster than the market as a whole in the current year and expects to achieve new sales volume records for its BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce brands," CEO Norbert Reithofer told reporters on Thursday.
Finance chief Friedrich Eichiner said the company would revisit its guidance after the second quarter. BMW currently expects the operating margin in its core passenger-car business to be at the upper end of its 8 percent to 10 percent target range in 2012.
David Arnold, a specialist salesman at Credit Suisse in London, said: "The bears might say that they [BMW] didn't upgrade their full-year guidance, but it was foolish to expect anything else this early in the year, considering the company itself said it might re-examine its target only after first-half results."
Hans-Peter Wodniok, an analyst at Fairesearch in Kronberg, Germany, said: "The higher revenue gain shows that prices increased, which led to higher profit. The sport-utility vehicles did very well and the 1 series shot off like a rocket."