DaimlerChrysler

(DCX)

said Wednesday its full-year net profit grew 37% from a year ago, but that operating profit slipped 11% and was "significantly impacted" by second-half losses at its North American Chrysler division.

The automaker, which announced these figures ahead of schedule, posted an unadjusted net profit of 7.9 billion euros, or $7.35 billion, up from 5.7 billion euros a year ago. But operating profit was 9.8 billion euros, down from 11 billion euros a year ago.

Excluding one-time gains from the sale of non-automotive units, net profit fell 44% to 3.5 billion euros from 6.2 billion euros, and operating profit dropped 49% to 5.2 billion euros from 10.3 billion euros.

Adjusted earnings per share for 2000, excluding one-time items, were 3.47 euros, or $3.26, down from 6.21 euros, or $6.49, in 1999. Analysts surveyed by

First Call/Thomson Financial

were expecting full-year earnings of $3.33 a share.

DaimlerChrysler reported full-year 2000 sales that rose 8% to 162.4 billion euros.

Today's earnings announcement by the world's fifth-largest carmaker surprised the market, which was expecting it on Feb. 23 along with a detailed plan of how Daimler will extract itself from

Chrysler's losses. The company has also been plagued with speculation it faces a

hostile takeover, just more bad news for a company that announced on Jan. 29 the

biggest retrenchment in the U.S. auto industry in nearly a decade at its troubled Chrysler unit.

It appears to be all bad news for the entire auto industry these days.

Standard & Poor's

reportedly cut its outlook for rivals,

General Motors

(GM) - Get Report

and

Ford

(F) - Get Report

today to negative from stable, warning that even with recent restructuring moves, their profits are coming under pressure as domestic and international competition worsens.

According to a report by

The Wall Street Journal

, the credit-ratings agency said that if the automakers don't address their problems and maintain their financial flexibility, GM's ratings could be lowered "within the next year" and Ford's "within the next few years." For the moment, however, the agency left the companies' ratings unchanged.

S&P analyst Scott Sprinzen said the negative outlook isn't just a reflection of a slowing economy but also an indication of increasing competition from imports in the U.S. market for pickups and sport-utility vehicles -- a major source of profits for both GM and Ford. The U.S. automakers, which have traditionally controlled these markets, have recently faced increased competition from rivals like

Toyota Motors

(TM) - Get Report

.

S&P also noted that financial problems are much more acute at DaimlerChrysler, according to the

Journal

report.

Shares of DaimlerChrysler finished Tuesday at $48.23, while GM closed at $58.12 on the

New York Stock Exchange

. Ford ended Tuesday's trading at $28.74 on the Big Board.