Italian auto giant Fiat reports rise in profits

Italian auto giant Fiat on Wednesday reported its net profit in the fourth quarter rose to 388 million euros ($525 million) from 265 million euros the year before and said it was aiming for profits of up to 1.5 billion euros this year.

The results were upbeat despite continued decline in the European car market and were helped by a rise in sales in North America but Fiat said it would not be paying any dividends to shareholders.

Market conditions in the Americas and Asia "continue to support the financial projections made for 2013 and while the European market continues to present significant levels of uncertainty, the Group confirms its guidance for 2013," it said.

The company, which includes the Chrysler, Ferrari and Maserati brands, said it was also aiming for turnover of 88 to 92 billion euros this year.

Fiat chairman John Elkann earlier on Wednesday said the company had been forced to make "difficult choices" to continue producing in Italy despite the collapse of the market and CEO Sergio Marchionne said he would not be shutting any Italian plants.

"Despite market troubles, we have made difficult choices to continue producing in Italy," Elkann said at the opening of a new plant for luxury brand Maserati just outside Fiat's hometown of Turin.

Marchionne, who also heads Chrysler, said: "I can confirm that we will not shut any plants in Italy."

The company had warned last year that it could be forced to shut one of its five factories in Italy.

But Marchionne cautioned about the outlook for sales in Europe, saying: "The European car market may not have hit bottom."

The company's third-quarter profits were double what they were in the same period in 2011 but that was almost entirely due to results from Chrysler and luxury sales in booming markets like China.

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