Renault has announced 2003 net income of €2,480 million, up 26.8% on 2002. The result was ahead of analysts’ expectations and reflects a strong second half, aided by the introduction of new Magane II range variants, the new Scenic and a new Espace.

Earnings per share for 2003 were €9.32, compared with €7.53 in 2002.

The company’s strong net income figure also benefited from earnings growth at Nissan (in which Renault has a controlling 44.4% stake). Nissan contributed some €1,705 million to Renault’s net income in 2003.

Other elements contributing to the upturn were steady growth in diesel sales, a stronger commercial performance in international markets, an increase in spare parts activity and a rise in sales of components to other companies, particularly Nissan.

Reflecting the success of new models, group operating margin increased to 4.3% in the second half, compared with 3.2% in the first, giving a total for the year of €1,402 million, or 3.7% of revenues.

The company said that amid sluggish trading conditions, Renault improved its performance in second-half of 2003 and stabilised its share of the world market at 4.1%. The group sold a total of 2.39 million vehicles during the year, a 0.7% decline on the previous year.

Renault pointed to a particularly strong performance outside of Western Europe last year, with sales growth of 9% on the back of buoyant demand in Central and Eastern Europe, and Russia; a pick-up in the Turkish market (127%); and an 18.8% rise in sales at Dacia, Renault’s Romanian subsidiary. In Korea, the market fell nearly 18%, but Renault Samsung grew its share of the passenger car market, to 10.8%.

Looking ahead, Renault said that it expects the automobile market in 2004 to edge upwards in Europe and increase slightly in the main countries in which the group operates outside Europe. The company expects to benefit from a Mégane family at full strength as well as from what is describes as ‘heightened competitiveness, primarily as a result of cooperative ventures within the Alliance [with Nissan]’.

Renault forecasts a group operating margin of around 4.5% of revenues for 2004 and a further increase in net earnings.