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Audi's First-Half Profit Jumps Nearly 67%

Luxury car maker Audi, a unit of Volkswagen, said Monday that sales and profit soared during the January-June period, putting it on track to a 12th consecutive year of record results.

"We are progressing at full speed towards our 12th record-breaking year in a row and are on course to become the most successful premium car manufacturer in the world by 2015," Chief Executive Rupert Stadler said.

The company earned 679 million euros ($926.9 million) in the first six months of 2007, a 66.8% gain over the 407 million euros it earned in the same period in 2006.

Sales rose by 12.4% to a record 17.4 billion euros ($23.75 billion) from nearly 15.5 billion euros in the first six months of 2006.

It did not immediately provide details on second-quarter figures.

Audi said that the "disproportionately sharp rise in earnings compared with revenue is also reflected by the increase in the rate of return before tax from 4.3 to 6.4%."

Shares of Audi up nearly 1% to 497.99 euros ($679.81) in Frankfurt trading.

Stadler said the company was on track to meet, and in some cases, exceed its sales goals for the year, pointing to the six-month figures as solid record of its business plan.

"The key figures for the first half of the year impressively demonstrate what we understand by profitable growth," he said. "We have achieved a very healthy balance between unit sales, revenue and profit, and this reflects the quality of our business."

Audi said that deliveries rose to more than 509,000 cars this year, up 9.8% from last year when 463,508 were delivered to customers.

Through June, Audi had handed over some 372,300 vehicles to customers in Europe, 7.4% more than in the first half of last year when 346,712 were delivered.

In Europe, Audi achieved record sales in 22 individual markets, including Britain, where sales reached 55,557 in the first six months, up 19.3% from the 46,560 sold last year. Sales were also higher in Italy, with deliveries up 6.4%; Spain, where deliveries rose 5.1%; and Sweden, where deliveries rose 25% with 9,071 cars sold.

In Russia, unit sales were up by 76.3% with 7,272 cars sold, compared to 4,124 last year.

In the United States, Audi's third biggest market, sales reached 45,711 cars in the January-June period, up 13% from last year when it sold 40,455.

In China, including Hong Kong, Audi's second biggest non-domestic market, the company sold 49,267 vehicles in the first half of the year, an increase of 26.9% from the 38,838 it sold last year.

Audi also enjoyed strong growth in Australia and India. Sales in the first half in Australia were up 42.8% with 3,819 vehicles compared to 2,674 in 2006.

In India, where Audi established a National Sales Company this March, unit sales grew by 48.2%, with 206 cars sold, compared with 139 in the first six months of 2006.

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