BMW: Expect Strong Profit in 2018 Despite Big Future-Tech Spending

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German luxury-car maker BMW AG (NASDAQOTH: BAMXF) said on March 21 that its profit before tax in 2018 will be at least equal to the 10.65 billion euros ($13.1 billion) it made in 2017, despite a plan to spend big on autonomous-driving technologies and the development of a new range of electric vehicles.

BMW's 2017 result: The raw numbers

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Here are the key numbers from BMW's 2017 financial report. (Note that these were also released in a separate preliminary report on March 8.) All financial results are shown in euros. As of March 21, 2018, 1 euro = about $1.23.

Coming this year: More high-profit BMW SUVs

A year ago, CEO Harald Krueger said that BMW would boost production of high-profit SUVs to help fund the development of battery-electric and self-driving vehicles. Now, we're starting to see that plan become reality.

Speaking at a news conference following the company's release of its 2017 annual report, Krueger said that all-new versions of BMW's X2 and X4 crossovers will come to market this year. In addition, BMW is ramping up production of the all-new version of its huge-selling X3 that it launched late last year.

In total, Krueger said, BMW will bring 20 "new and revised" models to market in 2018.

Coming later on: New BMW electrics

Krueger said that BMW will present show-car versions of several upcoming all-electric models this year:

BMW plans to launch about a dozen battery-electric vehicles between now and 2025, across its three automotive brands. (BMW owns the Mini and Rolls-Royce brands.) An electric Mini, due next year, will be joined by a fully electric version of the X3 crossover in 2020. An all-out high-tech BMW luxury sedan based on the iNEXT show car will follow in 2021.

The new technology in these vehicles won't come cheap. Krueger noted that BMW's capital expenditures (capex) and spending on research and development (R&D) were both up big in 2017. They were:

  • Capex of 4.69 billion euros was up 25.6% from 2016, and was 4.8% of its total revenue for the year.
  • R&D of 6.11 billon euros represented an increase of 18.3% from 2016, and was 6.2% of its 2017 revenue.

CFO Nicholas Peter said that both could rise further in 2018. Capex could be as much as 5% of BMW's 2018 revenue, and R&D spending will likely come in between 6.5% and 7% of revenue.

BMW's 2018 guidance: Another good year ahead

Despite the big spending plans, Peter noted that the company met all of its guidance for 2017, with a record profit -- and it expects the good news to (mostly) continue in 2018.

Specifically, for 2018, BMW expects:

  • A "slight" increase in automotive deliveries (2017 result: 2,463,526)
  • Automotive segment EBIT margin between 8% and 10% (2017: 8.9%)
  • A "solid" increase in motorcycle deliveries (2017: 164,153)
  • A "slight" decrease in return on equity in its financial services segment (2017: 18.1%)
  • Profit before tax "at least on par" with 2017 (2017: 10.65 billion euros)

The takeaway for investors: Big profit growth isn't likely for BMW in the near term. But BMW is taking steps to earn enough to give investors at least a little bottom-line growth while funding its efforts to remain competitive (and strongly profitable) in the future.

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John Rosevear has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends BMW. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.