US: Daimler's Chrysler figures attract scrutiny
Daimler first quarter results announced on Tuesday have attracted considerable interest in the US as they give some indication of how Chrysler is doing since its majority takeover by private equity.
The Detroit Free Press said the results suggest Chrysler has lost about US$6.8bn primarily in the last five months of 2007 under international accounting standards, wiping out two-thirds of its value, at least on the German automaker's balance sheet.
Chrysler said in a statement last night that it has "enjoyed positive operating earnings" and that Daimler reports Chrysler Holding LLC's results on a one quarter lag based on international financial reporting standards (IFRS), rather than US GAAP which it uses.
"Due to that lag, the results announced by Daimler on 29 April primarily relate to the fourth quarter of 2007. The results for Chrysler Holding LLC includes both the automotive and financial services operations.
"There are significant differences between IFRS and US GAAP accounting standards.
"Accordingly, the 2007 financial results of Chrysler LLC under US GAAP are substantially better than the IFRS-based financial results utilised by Daimler."
But experts told the Detroit Free Press the European accounting standards, while different, provide a relevant measure.
The paper noted that because Chrysler is now the first major US automaker to be privately controlled in more than 50 years [and no longer has to report quarterly financials], little is known about the company's finances. Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli has said the automaker will not be profitable in 2008.
On the other hand, Daimler, which is publicly held, maintains a 19.9% share in Chrysler and must file quarterly financial statements regarding the entire German company with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.
The Detroit Free Press said Daimler's records show the German company viewed its stake in Chrysler as being worth EUR547m - or US$850m at Tuesday's conversion rate.
That value seemingly would indicate that Daimler views all of Chrysler to be worth about $4.2bn - a $6.8bn drop since August, the paper said. Daimler listed Chrysler's so-called book value at that time as being $2.2 billion indicating a total value of around $11 billion.
The Detroit Free Press said Daimler said it lost $780m in the first quarter of 2008 because of Chrysler, including $529m mainly in the fourth quarter and $235m because of the "falling residual values of Chrysler vehicles," which is believed to be related to Chrysler's financing arm, Chrysler Financial.
The paper added that the German automaker did indicate that most of those losses occurred in the fourth quarter of 2007.
A $780-million loss would indicate that Chrysler as a whole lost $3.9 billion in the fourth quarter under international accounting standards, the Detroit Free Press added.
The paper said previous Daimler filings had indicated that Chrysler lost $2.9bn primarily in August and September. Added to Tuesday's filing, Daimler seemed to indicate that Chrysler and its financial arm lost a total of $6.8bn in the final five months of 2007 under European accounting standards.
"There would be no reason not to use those assumptions. They may not be exact numbers or there may be some accounting technicalities, but I would find it perfectly reasonable to use that logic," Kevin Tynan, an automotive analyst at Argus Research, told the Detroit Free Press. "Obviously it's not good. That's the bottom line."
The paper also noted that Daimler cautioned against reading too much into its numbers, saying in its fillings that "these results are by no means indicative for the results to be reported by Chrysler Holding LLC due to substantial valuation differences between US-GAAP used by Chrysler and IFRS accounting used by Daimler."
The Detroit Free Press said Chrysler officials have been adamant that the automaker is meetings financial goals set by Cerberus.
"Operationally, we've made a profit," Jim Press, a Chrysler president and vice chairman, said in late February.