While not directly MINI related, this news might be of interest to those who follow the financial health of one of the last truly independant automakers.

>In the course of its successful product and market initiative, the BMW Group intends to strengthen and extend its position as the world’s leading premium manufacturer in the automotive industry over the years to come. The retail target of 1.4 million vehicles, originally expected to be reached in 2008, will be met one year ahead of schedule. Thanks to the high desirability of the BMW Group model range, goals for the future remain ambitious: “We want to pursue our profitable growth path further in the years ahead and intend to deliver a total of about 1.6 million BMW, MINI and Rolls-Royce vehicles to customers in the year 2010”, announced Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG, Helmut Panke, at the Annual General Meeting in Munich on Tuesday. This would mean almost a doubling of Group retail volume over the course of ten years since 2000.

>”With our ongoing product and market initiative, the BMW Group will continue its successful course in the years to come, showing further positive developments in terms of revenues and earnings”, emphasized Panke. He also reaffirmed the BMW Group’s confident expectations for the current business year. The company intends to reach a new record in retail volume as well as a new high in pre-tax profit of euro 4 billion. “Despite headwinds arising from currency effects and high raw material prices, 2006 is going to be the most successful year in our company’s history, also in operative terms”, stated Panke.

>BMW Group starts in the year with record result

>The BMW Group started the new business year with new records for pre-tax earnings and deliveries. In the first quarter, automobile retail of the BMW, MINI and Rolls-Royce brands rose by 13.9% to 332,923 (2005: 292,207) vehicles. Deliveries of the BMW brand soared by 18.3% to 283,297 (2005: 239,387) vehicles. Due to capacity expansion measures at Plant Oxford, retail of MINI vehicles fell to 49,519 (-6.0%/2005: 52,694) units. In the medium term, however, capacity expansion will result in an production output of about 240,000 MINI vehicles a year.

>In the ultra-luxury segment, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars delivered 107 Phantom automobiles to customers, 15.1% fewer than in the same quarter last year (126 vehicles).

>Apart from the impressive rise in retail volume, the first quarter was again characterized by external factors and the one-off gain of euro 375 million from the partial settlement of the exchangeable bond on Rolls-Royce plc. shares. Group earnings rose to euro 11,618 million (2005: 10,357), up 12.2% from the previous year.

>In the first quarter 2006, profit before tax rose by 57.7% to euro 1,296 million (2005: 822). Excluding the above-mentioned one-off effect, profit before tax improved by 12.0% to euro 921 million, clearly exceeding last year’s result also in operative terms. Net profit soared by 80.6% to euro 948 million (2005: 525). Adverse currency effects and high raw material prices had a negative influence on the profit during the first three months, however these burdens could be compensated to a large extent thanks to the dynamic business development of the BMW Group as well as the implementation of further efficiency measures.

>BMW Group on track for success, also in operative terms

>Currency effects and high raw material prices will continue to have an impact on business development in the current year, however to a lesser degree than in the previous year. This negative effect is partly attributable to the fact that less favourable currency hedge rates are in place than in the previous year; the effect will be felt mainly in the first half of 2006. The BMW Group will counter this development by means of continuous efficiency and productivity improvements. The targeted sales volume record and improvements in the product mix will also make a positive contribute to earnings. The BMW Group expects to post a new high in profit before tax, even without including the one-off gain from the Rolls-Royce exchangeable bond.

>Successful business year 2005

>Last year, the BMW Group continued its successful business development, with all three brands posting new records in retail volume. At a total of 1,327,992 vehicles sold of the BMW, MINI and Rolls-Royce brands, the company beat the 2004 peak in retail by 9.9% last year (2004: 1,208,732 vehicles).

>Thanks to the growth in retail volume continuous measures to raise efficiency, additional burdens from currency effects and high raw material prices amounting to about euro 1 billion were mostly compensated. At euro 3,287 million, profit before tax for the business year 2005 remained, according to forecast, on about the same high level as in the year before (2004: euro 3,583 million / -8.3%). This result is again proof of the operative strength of the company, despite challenging market conditions and the negative market development of the option related to the Rolls-Royce exchangeable bond. The rising share price of the engine manufacturer led to a burden on the financial result 2005 of euro 356 million. At euro 2,239 million, annual earnings matched the previous year’s high level (euro 2,242 42 million / minus 0.1%).

>Shareholders to receive higher dividend

>In view of the high profitability as well as the positive start into the current business year, the Board of Management and the Supervisory Board have proposed to raise the dividend agaiOn adoption of the proposal, the BMW AG’s unappropriated profit of euro 424 million available for distribution will be used to pay a dividend of euro 0.64 per common share (last year: euro 0.62), up 3.2% from last year, and of euro 0.66 per preferred shareare (last year: euro 0.64), up 3.0% from last year.

>Another authorization for share buy-back proposed

>The Board of Management and the Supervisory Board of BMW AG have again presented an authorization to the Annual General Meeting asking for approval concerning the buy-back of own shares to the amount of up to 10% of capital stock. Whether and to what extent this authorization will be used for further share buy-backs has not yet been determined.

>The share buy-back program adopted in September 2005 covering 20,232,722 common shares – equaling 3% of common stock – was completed on 15 February 2006. Purchased shares were canceled on 21 February 2006, resulting in a capital reduction. All in all, shares for an amount of almost euro 759 million were bought at an average price per share of euro 37.51. This means that, including the raised dividend, BMW Group shareholders are going to participate in the business success of the past year with a total of close to euro 1.2 billion.