HERZOGENAURACH (dpa-AFX) - The automotive and industrial supplier Schaeffler made less profit last year due to the planned takeover of Vitesco. Hedging transactions for energy and currencies also cost the SDax group a lot of money this time. CEO Klaus Rosenfeld expects significant sales growth in the new year, but is already factoring in the completion of the Vitesco takeover in the fourth quarter. The manager is more cautious when it comes to profitability: it could go up or down significantly within a wide range. The disappointing results from the previous year caused the share price to slide.

In the morning, the share price was down 3.4 percent at 6.34 euros. Since hitting a low of 4.64 euros at the beginning of November, the share price has made up a good third of its ground. Twelve months ago, however, the preference share was still worth considerably more than 7 euros in some cases. JPMorgan analyst Akshat Kacker spoke of an unexpectedly weak sales trend in the fourth quarter, mainly in the automotive and industrial supply divisions.

The automotive division continues to lag behind the global growth in production of passenger cars and light commercial vehicles, the expert wrote. The industrial division is suffering from the weak economic environment. The order book in the segment now indicates a year-on-year decline in business volume of one fifth.

The net profit attributable to Schaeffler shareholders amounted to 310 million euros for the year as a whole, almost half as much as in the previous year despite the overall upturn in day-to-day business, as the company announced in Herzogenaurach on Tuesday. In addition to higher interest rates, the valuation of the Vitesco shares tendered in the takeover bid had a negative impact, and high costs were also incurred, particularly for energy hedging transactions.

Group sales grew by 3.2 percent to 16.3 billion euros. Adjusted for currency effects, the increase amounted to 5.8 percent. Analysts had expected slightly more on average. Before special effects, earnings before interest and taxes rose by 13.5 percent to 1.19 billion euros. Although the corresponding margin increased by 0.7 percentage points to 7.3 percent, experts had also expected a little more here.

Schaeffler anticipates significant currency-adjusted sales growth in the new year. The Group is already assuming that the takeover of the drive specialist Vitesco will be completed in the fourth quarter, which, depending on the timing, would significantly increase revenue through its inclusion in the balance sheet. Schaeffler CEO Rosenfeld expects the operating profit margin adjusted for special items to be between 6 and 9 percent.

Schaeffler has already secured a large part of the Vitesco shares and, according to its own information from January, holds 89 percent of the voting rights. The actual merger of the two companies is to be resolved at the respective Annual General Meetings at the end of April. According to preliminary information, the exchange ratio will be 11.4 Schaeffler shares per Vitesco share. The valuation expert jointly appointed by both parties and the "court-appointed merger auditor" still have to confirm the value. In addition, the supervisory boards of both companies still have to give their approval.

This would create one of the largest supplier companies in Germany with a turnover of around 25 billion euros, 120,000 employees and more than 100 factories worldwide./men/mne/stk