BMW earns rise as battered Europe market improves

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FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Booming sales in China and signs of life from the depressed European car market helped BMW's net profit rise 11 percent in the first quarter.

Earnings rose to 1.46 billion euros ($2.03 billion) from 1.31 billion euros in the same quarter a year earlier. The figure was higher than the 1.35 billion euros consensus expectation among analysts surveyed by financial information provider FactSet.

Munich-based BMW AG said Tuesday it "profited from increasingly friendly market conditions in the first quarter of 2014, particularly in Europe." Sales were strong for its mainstay 3 Series and 5 Series, as well as its redone X5 sport-utility made in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Overall, revenues rose 3.9 percent to 18.24 billion euros as the company sold 3.4 percent more cars in Europe, where markets have started to show signs of improvement. Demand started to recover from low levels after an economic crisis that weighed on incomes and sent unemployment up in countries such as Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Italy.

Sales rose by 21 percent in Asia and by 25 percent in China, where strong demand has supported earnings for BMW and its German competitors Volkswagen and Daimler.

Sales grew by a more modest 2.7 percent in the United State after business was dented by the unusually cold and stormy weather during the quarter. However, BMW said the underlying economic climate in the U.S. remained favorable.

BMW's motorcycle business also showed improvements, as unit sales rose 16 percent to 28,719. The company said the market for 500-cc plus motorcycles "emerged from the doldrums for the first time in several years." Mild spring weather in Europe meant an earlier start to the motorcycling season.

BMW shares were down 1 percent in morning trading in Germany.

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