GRUGLIASCO – Italy's Fiat has reduced its losses in Europe in the fourth quarter, the carmaker's chief executive said on Wednesday before the release of its results, expected at about 8 a.m ET.
Fiat had forecast a 2012 net loss of about 700 million euros ($944 million) in Europe, where mass-market automakers are failing to convince recession-hit consumers to buy new cars.
"Fiat's 2013 results in Europe won't be drastically different from 2012, we have already reduced losses in the fourth quarter," he said, confirming Fiat's target of breaking even in Europe in 2015 or 2015.
Demand for new cars in Europe fell to a 17-year low in 2012, leaving mass-market manufacturers little hope for this year as they try to cut costly excess factory capacity and aggressive discounting dents their margins. Fiat had an EBIT loss in Europe of 219 million euros for its mass-market brands in the third quarter of 2012.
"A smaller loss in Europe would be positive for Fiat, even if only improves the picture in the near term," said UBS analyst Philippe Houchois.
Fiat is expected to post a trading profit of 1 billion euros, which includes 780 million euros from its U.S. unit Chrysler, according to a consensus of estimates compiled by the automaker.
Chrysler results are due out at about 1145 GMT.
Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S consensus analyst forecasts show Fiat is expected to report a net profit of 444.4 million euros for the fourth quarter profit.
However, weighted against analysts' track record, Thomson Reuters StarMine data forecasts Fiat profit at 456.8 million.
StarMine data also shows that Fiat's 2012 net debt is seen at 6.49 billion euros, less than other analysts' consensus.
Fiat trimmed its 2012 targets on October 30 to the lower end of a previous range, forecasting group trading profit of 3.8 billion, net debt of 6.5 billion and net profit of 1.2 billion.
($1 = 0.7420 euros)
(Reporting by Gianni Montan; Writing by Jennifer Clark; Editing by Louise Ireland)