STOCKHOLM -- Scania, Europe's third biggest truck maker, posted higher-than-expected profits for the fourth quarter on Friday but warned R&D charges and smaller hedging benefits could dent earnings this year.
Scania made a 1.40 billion crown ($191.6 million) pre-tax profit in October-December against analyst expectations of 1.29 billion crowns and the 1.26 billion recorded a year earlier.
Group sales were 14.0 billion crowns compared with a consensus of 13.98 billion and 13.45 billion a year earlier.
The company delivered 45,045 trucks, up 13 percent year-on-year, in 2003, and 4,910 buses, up 30 percent.
"The economic situation in western Europe is expected to improve somewhat during 2004, but for the time being we are planning for largely unchanged volume," Scania's Chief Executive Leif Ostling said in a statement.
"We expect the result to be impacted by higher amortization of research and development costs and reduced benefits from currency hedging."
In full-year 2003, currency hedging income of 620 million crowns offset a 770 million crown negative currency effect, Scania said.
Its numbers follow weaker-than-expected earnings from rival truck maker Volvo, which on Tuesday forecast demand for trucks in Europe would grow between two and five percent in 2004.
Scania's shares traded 2.7 percent higher at 226 crowns at 1306 GMT. They had been up around two percent before the earnings report.
The board also proposed a dividend of six crowns per share for 2003, up from 5.50 crowns the previous year.