German carmaker BMW said Thursday it would lift the dividend payout to shareholders after earnings rose to new records in 2004 and on hopes for another successful year this year. BMW said in a statement it planned to pay an increased dividend of €0.62 ($0.83) per ordinary share for 2004, compared with €0.58 for 2003. And the dividend for preference shareholders would be upped to €0.64 euros per share from €0.60 euros. The increased dividend was made possible after bottom-line profits sped ahead by 14.1 percent to €2.22 billion ($2.9 billion) last year, making 2004 the "most successful year" in BMW's history, the car maker said. The figure was higher than analysts had been expecting. Operating profit was up by 10.9 percent at €3.55 billion on a 6.8-percent rise in sales to €44.335 billion. "We are reaping the benefits of the up-front expenditure previously incurred to launch new products and to expand the international sales organization," said chairman Helmut Panke. BMW also said it would ask shareholders at the upcoming annual meeting for permission to buy back up to 10 percent of its share capital.