Emission scandal to cost $18B for Volkswagen

Volkswagen says it would take $18 billion hit to its 2015 results for its emissions-test cheating scandal

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

A Volkswagen logo is pictured at Volkswagen's headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany, April 22, 2016.

Volkswagen (VW) said on Friday it would take a 16.2-billion-euro ($18.2 billion) hit to its 2015 results and slash its dividend to help pay for its emissions-test cheating scandal.

The news came amid growing signs a regulatory clampdown in the wake of VW's cheating is affecting the broader industry, with Germany-based automakers including Mercedes-Benz, and Opel - as well as VW - agreeing to recall a total of 630,000 cars to fix diesel engine technology blamed for high pollution.

On Thursday, VW agreed a framework settlement with US authorities to buy back or potentially fix about half a million cars fitted with illegal test-fixing software, and set up environmental and consumer compensation funds.

Analysts said the deal was crucial for VW to give a cost for the scandal in its 2015 results, which have been delayed since February, and provide a starting point for Europe's biggest carmaker to try to rebuild trust with investors and customers.

VW said on Friday the money it was setting aside to pay for the scandal would drive it to a 2015 net loss of 1.36 billion euros, the largest in its history and the first on an annual basis since 1993. Full results are due on April 28.

However, analysts said the Wolfsburg-based company could still face further costs, including potential US Department of Justice (DoJ) fines as part of an expected civil settlement, and a DoJ investigation that could lead to criminal charges

There are also questions over whether it will offer compensation to the much larger number of diesel drivers affected outside the United States, as well as who will be blamed for the scandal in several ongoing investigations.

"The crisis in Wolfsburg is far from over yet," said NordLB analyst Frank Schwope, who has a "hold" rating on VW stock.

"The agreement with US regulators is nothing but an intermediate step in a marathon that should stretch out over the next 5-10 years."

VW said on Friday it could not release preliminary findings from an investigation it commissioned from US law firm Jones Day until it had reached an agreement with the DoJ.

Chief Executive Matthias Mueller also said he could not put a figure on the total cost of the scandal -- which some analysts have estimated at about $30 billion -- but there was no reason to believe the 2015 loss would lead to job cuts.

VW said it planned to pay a dividend of 0.11 euros per ordinary share and 0.17 euros per preferred share on its 2015 results, down from 4.80 and 4.86 respectively the year before.

It also said executive bonuses for 2015 would fall by an average 39 percent from the year before. Management bonuses have been a major flashpoint with workers and some investors, with VW's second-largest shareholder - its home state of Lower Saxony - calling for them to be scrapped or significantly reduced.

VW, which has described 2016 as "a year of transition", said it expected deliveries to be on a par with last year's 9.93 million cars, with revenues falling as much as 5 percent due to weak demand in South America and Russia.

It forecast an operating margin of 5-6 percent, versus 6 percent in 2015, adjusted for special items.

VW's preferred shares, down nearly 20 percent since VW admitted to cheating US diesel tests in September, closed down 1.3 percent at 125.45 euros, after gaining sharply this week.

TRTWorld, Reuters