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Renault returns to profit

BOULOGNE-BILLANCOURT, Feb 10, 2011 – French automaker Renault said Thursday it made a profit of 3.42 billion euros in 2010 against a loss of 3.12 billion euros the previous year, predicting even stronger results in 2011.

In a statement it said it was aiming for "higher sales volume and bigger turnover" in 2011 after profits in 2010 were boosted by one-off income of two billion euros ($2.7 billion) from selling part of Swedish automaker Volvo.

"Renault\’s performance was higher than expected," said chief executive Carlos Ghosn in a statement. "These results constitute a solid base for the launch of our new strategic plan."

Unveiling that plan along with its annual results, Renault set a target to sell more than three million vehicles in 2013.

A key plank of its strategy is electric cars, with three electric models due to be launched this year — the Fluence, Kangoo and Twizy — and a fourth, the ZOE, in 2012.

It said it sold a record 2.6 million vehicles in 2010 and earnings rose by more than 15 percent to 38.9 million euros.

Operating profit stood at 1.09 billion euros, 2.8 percent of sales, against an operating loss of 396 million euros in 2009.

Like most major car makers, Renault was hit hard by the economic crisis and shed thousands of jobs during the worst of the recession two years ago.

"The company\’s situation in 2011 is much stronger in terms of products, technologies and profits," Ghosn told reporters on Thursday, however.

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Its plan for the coming years was less ambitious than its last strategic blueprint published in 2009, however, aiming for an operating margin of five percent of earnings in 2013 compared to a six percent target previously.

"It is a robust plan with quite conservative forecasts in some cases to assure that Renault has every chance of succeeding," Ghosn said.

Its priorities for expansion are the major emerging markets of Brazil and Russia, plus India where it plans to launch two new models, the Koleos and Fluence, this year.

"We have no plans for China until 2013," Ghosn said.

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