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Fiat Chrysler shares tumble as 2019 guidance disappoints

Kitco News

MILAN (Reuters) - Fiat Chrysler (FCA) shares fell 11 percent on Thursday after weaker-than-expected guidance for profits and industrial free cash flow this year raised doubts about the Italian-American carmaker’s longer-term targets.

The world’s seventh-largest carmaker said it expected to report 2019 adjusted earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) - excluding the Magneti Marelli unit it has agreed to sell - of more than 6.7 billion euros ($7.6 billion).

That is below analysts’ average forecast of 7.3 billion euros and suggests little improvement on 2018, when FCA reported an adjusted EBIT on the same basis of 6.7 billion euros.

The company is guiding for industrial free cash flow of more than 1.5 billion euros, which is lower than the 4.4 billion euros reached at the end of last year, due to higher capital expenditure, cash payments for fines and other costs related to its U.S. settlement for diesel emissions infringements.

The 2019 guidance also raises doubts over the 2020 forecasts the carmaker gave in June when late boss Sergio Marchionne promised to deliver an adjusted EBIT of 9.2-10.4 billion euros.

Last year’s results came in roughly in line with analysts’ expectations, with North America again accounting for the lion’s share - or 85.5 percent - of profits, with margins in the region improving to 8.6 percent from 7.9 percent a year earlier.

FCA has retooled some U.S. plants to boost output of lucrative SUVs and trucks, while ending production of unprofitable sedans, and helping make up for weakness in Asia, Europe and at luxury brand Maserati.

However, the over-reliance on one region worried some analysts, especially given intense competition in the SUV and truck markets and the fact growth in the U.S. market is starting to slow.

“The U.S. market remains key for near term growth,” said Evercore ISI analyst Arndt Ellinghorst, adding he would be watching how the sales of higher-margin pickups and utility vehicles develop in the second part of 2019 and next year.

“We also remain concerned regarding APAC (Asia-Pacific) and Maserati,” he added.

FCA’s operations in Europe were hit by lower sales volumes and the transition towards tougher emissions tests which became mandatory from the start of September.

Chinese market weakness weighed on FCA’s performance in Asia and hit Maserati sales. The brand’s margins fell to 5.7 percent from 13.8 percent a year earlier.

Milan-listed FCA shares were down 11.3 percent at 1424 GMT, underperforming a 1.7 percent fall in Milan’s blue-chip index.

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