MILAN: Fiat SpA, the Italian automaker that controls Chrysler LLC, said Wednesday it had reduced its fourth-quarter losses in Europe last year, helping earnings more than double as North American sales continued to surge.
The carmaker based in the northern Italian city of Turin posted net profit of $138 million, up from $58.4 million in the same period last year. Revenues were $29.6 billion.
For the full year, net profit shrank to $472 million from $1.8 billion in 2011. Fiat owns 58.5 percent of Chrysler, which earned $1.7 billion last year as Jeep, Dodge, Chrysler and Ram all registered double-digit sales increases.
The two carmakers combined sold 4.2 million vehicles last year, with North American sales rising 20 percent to 2.1 million. Europe registered a 14 percent decrease in to just over 1 million. Fiat’s home market of Italy contributed less than 10 percent to the carmaker’s overall sales — an all-time low for the 114-year-old company that is the nation’s largest private sector employer.
Fiat also said Wednesday it would not pay a dividend so it can afford further investments — including the possibility of buying out the autoworker’s pension trust fund holding in Chrysler.
The trust has asked Chrysler to start the process of a public stock offering so it can sell its shares. Fiat, meanwhile, is waiting for a resolution on the price it has offered in separate groupings of 3.3 percent each.
“If we cannot find a way to satisfy [the trust], then I think the company will go public,” Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne told analysts. “It is my objective at the end of the process for Fiat and Chrysler to be one corporate entity.”
Marchionne said the 2012 results were not a one-time event, confirming 2013 forecasts for $1.6 billion to $2 billion on revenues between $119 billion and $125 billion.
Meanwhile, Chrysler said it expects to earn more than $2 billion this year.
Improving U.S. auto sales — and better products at Chrysler — were the big reasons for the vast improvement over 2011’s profit of $183 million. Chrysler sold 2.2 million cars and trucks worldwide last year, up 18 percent.
In the U.S., its largest market, Chrysler’s sales rose 21 percent. Chrysler saw strong sales of the Chrysler 200 and 300 sedans, the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Ram pickup. The Fiat 500 also sold well last year.
The company filed for bankruptcy during the recession in 2009 and needed a $12.5 billion loan from taxpayers to survive. Chrysler has repaid $11.2 billion, but the U.S. Treasury Department says it won’t recover the remaining $1.3 billion. The profit in 2011 was Chrysler’s first annual profit since 1997. Revenue increased 20 percent to $65.8 billion.
The No. 3 U.S. automaker expects net income to rise to around $2.2 billion this year on revenue of between $72 billion and $75 billion. Fiat’s 63,643 workers were told in an email that they would get performance bonus payments.