DaimlerChrysler ( DCX) slashed its dividend and pushed out its profit target as tough market conditions in North America and the global economic slowdown continue to punish the automaker.

In a press release Wednesday, the German-American vehicle manufacturer said revenue totaled $136.1 billion for 2001. Excluding one-time items, the company earned $700 million, or 65 cents a share. According to First Call, analysts were looking for a profit of 74 cents for the year. When calculated with the items, the company posted a loss of $600 million, or 59 cents a share.

After reviewing the financial results, the company's management has proposed cutting the annual dividend to one euro per share, the equivalent of about 89 cents. The company had been paying a dividend of 2.35 euros, which would be about $2.04 a share using the current exchange rate. A final decision on the dividend payment will be made at the annual meeting of shareholders in Berlin on April 10.

Despite the world's economic uncertainties, DaimlerChrysler now expects its operating profit in 2002 to more than double from $1.2 billion last year, but the company didn't offer a specific forecast.

DaimlerChrysler, which was created by the merger of Germany's Daimler-Benz and Detroit's Chrysler, has had a fairly rocky road since the two companies joined in 1998. In late 2000, the company sacked several members of Chrysler's U.S. management and replaced them with German executives.

Shortly thereafter, a big shareholder called Tracinda, a firm owned by financier Kirk Kerkorian, sued DaimlerChrysler and its top executives, including Chairman and Chief Executive Juergen Schrempp, alleging that they "fraudulently" induced Chrysler shareholders to vote for the deal that created the company, which was billed as a merger of equals.

The company has had a hard time meeting analysts' financial targets in recent quarters, and lately the problems have been compounded by an incentives war with General Motors ( GM) and Ford ( F). The Big Three's price fight, first with interest-free financing and now featuring cash rebates, has left GM as the clear leader of the group while Ford and DaimlerChrysler scramble to maintain their revenue streams and cash.

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