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Business

Business Briefs

Volkswagen steps up attempts to acquire truckmaker MAN; German exports to the U.S. sputter; carmaker BMW posts increase and Germany's online retail industry defies economic downturn.

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Sales of the Mini, part of the BMW family of autos, rose 44 percent in the first half of the year.

VW eyes MAN's truck unit

Europe’s largest carmaker, Volkswagen, has intensified efforts to acquire the truck business of German engineering conglomerate MAN. The purchase could transform VW into one of the world’s top truckmakers. According to press reports published over the weekend, VW CEO Bernd Pischetsrieder has held discussions with Paul Achleitner, chief financial officer of Allianz, MAN’s single largest shareholder. VW, which already does brisk business in light and medium-sized commercial vehicles, is said to want to gain a foothold in the trucking sector with the acquisition of MAN's truck business in order to rival giants DaimlerChrysler and Volvo. MAN, which has been affected by receding investment sentiments, posted a loss in the first quarter and its business value halved during the past year.

German exports to U.S. run out of steam

The German Federal Statistical Office announced Monday that demand for German products is on the wane in the U.S. but picking up strongly in China. German exports to America fell 11.5 percent in April to €5.1 billion ($5.8 billion) compared to the same period last year. At the same time, export volume to China jumped by 21.7 percent to €1.5 billion. A spokesman for the Federation of German Wholesale and Foreign Trade (BGA) said the declining U.S. figures couldn’t be blamed on a strong euro and poor U.S. growth alone, but were also possibly linked to German opposition to the U.S.-led war against Iraq. Other analysts were more cautious about drawing that conclusion. The statistical office said German exports generally performed poorly in April. Overall German exports fell 3.5 percent to €53.7 billion, with exports to eurozone countries tumbling by 3.5 percent, while exports to non-eurozone countries reduced by -- 1.3 percent as compared to April 2002.

BMW hoping for a good year

German luxury carmaker BMW on Monday posted an 0.2 percent increase in unit sales for the first six months of the year compared to last year. The company said combined sales for the month of June of both BMWs and Minis were up 2.7 percent compared to the same period last year. The company also said it sold 454,970 of its luxury cars in the first half of the year, 5.5 percent fewer than by the same time a year ago. The company attributed the drop to decreased demand for its 5-series luxury sedan. The company is hoping its new 5-series, which will be available in markets by autumn, will boost sales in the second half of the year. Meanwhile, sales of the new Mini increased by 44 percent, with the movement of 89,880 units during the same period.

Online sales strong

Germany’s online retail industry grew strongly in the first half of 2003 according to the daily Die Welt. The newspaper, quoting company sources and the German Retailers Association (HDE) said turnover increased by more than 30 percent compared to the same time last year. The reports said the industry is forecasting further growth of around 38 percent, to €11 billion, for the full year on account of Christmas sales. "On the Internet in stationary trade, one can’t feel any of the depressed consumer confidence," said Olaf Roik, Internet analyst for HDE. The entire German retail industry, meanwhile, is expecting a drop in revenues of close to 1 percent this year.

Compiled by DW staff from wire services