By Andreas Cremer
BERLIN (Reuters) - Volkswagen
Operating profit at Europe's largest automotive group rose to 2.78 billion euros (2.3 billion pounds) from 2.32 billion a year ago, matching a consensus forecast from 14 analysts in a Reuters poll.
VW reaffirmed goals to match last year's record operating profit of 11.5 billion euros and to push sales and deliveries to record levels this year. But the company said the targets are "very ambitious given the extremely difficult economic environment."
"We are focusing on disciplined cost and investment management," finance chief Hans Dieter Poetsch said. "That's particularly important given the fact that the economic environment isn't expected to improve in the short term."
A plan to switch production of small and medium-sized models at its four main passenger-car brands to a new modular platform "will have an increasingly positive effect" on the group's cost structure, VW said.
Analysts have warned that the new "MQB" vehicle platform, designed to cut production costs and shorten assembly times, will keep weighing on profits and its savings may miss ambitious targets.
VW shares were up 4.4 percent at 182.50 euros as of 8:26 a.m. British time.
"An outlook for flat earnings is anything but overwhelming," said Frankfurt-based Bankhaus Metzler analyst Juergen Pieper. "Auto markets were in a dire state last year, that's why year-on-year results look so good today."(Editing by Peter Dinkloh and David Holmes)