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Business

Chrysler to Post Slight Operating Profit for First Quarter

Analysts responded with enthusiasm to the "sensational" news of a turnaround at DaimlerChrysler's U.S. arm.

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Light at the end of the tunnel for Daimler/Chrysler shareholders

Auto giant DaimlerChrysler AG on Wednesday said its U.S. arm, Chrysler Corp., would report slightly positive operating results for the first quarter, marking its return to profit after eighteen months in the red. In the first quarter of 2001, the unit incurred a loss of 1.4 billion euro.

But Jürgen Schrempp, chief executive of the Stuttgart-based group, faced calls for his resignation from angry shareholders at the annual general meeting in Berlin. Shareholder representatives charged that Schrempp's concept of a global corporation had been a failure.

Schrempp issued a plea for patience, saying the group had made a good start to 2002.

Although the jewel in its crown, luxury car maker Mercedes-Benz, had seen a slight decline in unit sales, this had been partly offset by a stronger-than-expected rise in sales of the Mercedes/Smart compact cars.

The DaimlerChrysler chief further angered shareholders by failing to provide a precise forecast for the group's full-year result. He did no more than repeat a statement that he first made in February, forecasting that operating earnings in 2002 would be "significantly more than" 2.6 billion euro.

But analysts preferred to focus on the good news from the U.S. "What they said about Chrysler amounts to a minor sensation, in my view," said Jürgen Pieper at Bankhaus Metzler.

The welcome from Michael Raab at Sal. Oppenheim was more cautious. "One swallow does not make a summer," he warned, but he conceded that the news did mark a strong upturn in the fortunes of the U.S. problem child.

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