Peugeot loss widened by 4.13 billion euro charge

LONDON/PARIS Thu Feb 7, 2013 9:04pm GMT

A salesman speaks with a customer next to a Peugeot car at a dealership in Marseille February 1, 2013. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier

A salesman speaks with a customer next to a Peugeot car at a dealership in Marseille February 1, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Jean-Paul Pelissier

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LONDON/PARIS (Reuters) - PSA Peugeot Citroen (PEUP.PA) slashed the book value of its plants and other automotive assets by 28 percent, in a writedown adding 4.13 billion euros ($5.53 billion) to its 2012 net loss to reflect Europe's worsening market outlook.

The struggling French carmaker, due to report full-year earnings on February 13, said on Thursday the impairment charge was prompted by new accounting guidelines as well as diminishing hopes for a European auto recovery.

"There was a realisation in the second half that the crisis was going to be longer than expected," Chief Financial Officer Jean-Baptiste de Chatillon told reporters at a briefing in Paris.

The writedown, which also trims 243 million euros from Peugeot's second-half operating profit, is "completely reversible" when market conditions improve, Chatillon said.

"This is purely an accounting adjustment which has nothing to do with operations."

But the writedown to Peugeot's automotive assets, which stood at 14.6 billion euros on June 30, comes on top of operational headaches at Europe's second-biggest automaker.

Peugeot, one of the companies worst hit by the region's protracted car sales slump, is cutting 8,000 jobs and closing a factory to stem losses approaching 200 million euros a month. The company has pledged to return to breakeven late in 2014.

Prior to Thursday's announcement, analysts were forecasting a 1.52 billion euro loss for 2012, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Peugeot was removed from France's benchmark CAC 40 stock index .FCHI last year as its market capitalisation shrank.

In guidelines issued on November 16, France's AMF market regulator urged companies to set more realistic asset valuations in light of expected cash flows.

The move has prompted a number of writedowns including charges totalling 7.4 billion euros at French bank Credit Agricole (CAGR.PA) over the past three months.

Peugeot's writedown includes a 3 billion euro impairment charge to auto-division assets and 879 million euros to the value of deferred taxes.

The Paris-based company said the writedown did not affect its plans to reduce cash burn by half this year or its earlier 3 billion euro net debt forecast for the end of 2012.

($1 = 0.7469 euros)

(Additional reporting by Christian Plumb; Editing by Steve Slater, Elaine Hardcastle and Dale Hudson)

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