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Renault shares rally as investors cheer dividend jump

renault

Shares in Renault (RENA.PA) hit two-month highs on Thursday after the French carmaker posted full-year 2023 net profit slightly below forecasts but reported margin and revenue gains and a huge dividend increase.

Late on Wednesday the company said it would propose a dividend of 1.85 euros ($1.98) for 2023, up from 0.25 euros for 2022, joining US automakers Ford (F.N) and General Motors (GM.N) in giving more cash to investors.

Renault shares were last up 4.2 per cent at 38.18 euros, having touched their highest since mid-December, compared with a 0.9 per cent rise in Paris’ benchmark CAC 40 (.FCHI).

Meanwhile, rival Stellantis (STLAM.MI) said on Thursday it had approved a share buyback worth up to 3 billion euros, helping send its shares to a record high in Milan despite its waring of a turbulent 2024.

Renault Chief Financial Officer Thierry Pieton told an analyst call on Thursday that car prices will have a “slight positive” effect on the company’s 2024 results, but not as much as in 2023.

The company posted an operating margin of 7.9 per cent, up from 5.5 per cent in 2022. The company said it expected an operating margin of about 7.5 per cent this year and stood by its target of double-digit margins by 2030.

“Investors will be looking out for any more details on Renault’s plan to sell more Nissan shares in 2024, and how they plan to use that cash,” Bernstein analysts said.

“We would be keen to understand where management sees demand for the current year … and what gives them confidence to expect a decent performance.”

Renault’s Pieton added that raw material prices turning positive in the second half of the year would continue to help in 2024.

“We read the 7.5 per cent group margin as a floor for 2024 and believe the firm will be able to improve the group margin year-on-year supported by another year of reaping the benefits of the strong product cycle, pricing power and reduction in the cost base,” JP Morgan analysts said in a note.

Morgan Stanley were similarly upbeat, but injected a note of caution.

“We think investors will view this OP margin guidance as very attractive and could look to re-rate the shares more

permanently as the balance sheet improves and management execution continues,” they said.

“The key risk is if European pricing weakens from here,” they added.

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