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Written by: Staff
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FRANKFURT, May 3 (Reuters) BMW, the world's biggest premium carmaker, reported a 57.7 percent gain in first-quarter pretax profit on Wednesday, helped by a one-off gain but still beating analysts' expectations.

It also tweaked its 2006 earnings guidance higher by forecasting not only that pretax profit would rise to a record 4 billion euros as deliveries to customers reach an all-time high, but also that earnings excluding one-off gains would advance.

''In terms of their full-year forecast they are marginally more bullish,'' said Banca IMI analyst Sabine Bluemel, adding quarterly results were better than expected but held no huge surprises.

BMW's shares rose 0.9 percent to 43.80 euros by 0722 GMT, bettering a 0.3 percent rise in the DJ Stoxx European car sector index.

Earnings before tax advanced to 1.296 billion euros ($1.64 billion) from 822 million euros a year earlier and compared with an average estimate of 1.22 billion in a Reuters poll of 20 analysts.

Even excluding a 375-million-euro gain from selling shares in UK aircraft engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce Plc, operating profit rose 12 percent to 921 million as deliveries of the company's sleek sedans and sport utility vehicles climbed nearly 14 percent.

First-quarter net profit jumped nearly 81 percent to 948 million euros on revenue up 12.2 percent to 11.62 billion.

Analysts had on average seen net profit of 888 million and sales of 11.57 billion.

''We are well on our way to achieving our target for a group profit before tax of 4 billion euros,'' Chief Executive Helmut Panke said in a statement.

''We also expect earnings to increase in 2006 at an operating level excluding the exceptional gain from the exchangeable bond on Rolls-Royce Plc shares,'' he added.

Increased sales volume and efficiency gains largely offset unfavourable exchange rates, high raw material prices and intense competition last year and again in the first quarter.

BMW said the negative impact of the strong euro and raw material costs would continue to weigh on earnings this year, but to a lesser degree than in 2005. It did not elaborate.

Pretax profit at BMW's core automobile division rose 7.2 percent to 761 million. Analysts had seen pretax profit at the division rising 6 percent on average to 743 million euros.

BMW stock trades at just over 11 times estimated 2007 earnings, a premium to arch-rival DaimlerChrysler's multiple of around 8.8 times next year's earnings, according to Reuters Estimates.

REUTERS CS HT1325

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