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Shares in PSA Peugeot Citroën fell sharply after the troubled French carmaking group reported a 13 per cent drop in its first-half unit sales.
The company, among the hardest hit by the eurozone crisis, said it sold 1.62m new vehicles and car assembly kits in the first half, compared to the 1.86m it sold in the first half of 2011.
Peugeot’s shares were down almost 6 per cent in early trading in Paris on Friday against a broadly flat CAC 40 index.
The share price movement also followed a report in France’s La Tribune newspaper – denied by Peugeot – that it had asked for a state loan to prop it up.
Peugeot was badly hurt in the first half by its exposure to European markets at the nexus of the debt crisis. It said that demand for cars and light trucks had dropped sharply in three of its biggest markets in January to June: down by 13 per cent in France; by 22 per cent in Italy and by 13 per cent in Spain.
Peugeot said that its overall European sales were down by 10 per cent for the period, due to an “unfavourable country mix”.
The French group is cutting at least 6,000 jobs and selling €1.5bn of assets in order to cut costs and raise cash. Philippe Varin, chief executive, summoned unions for a meeting on July 12 at which he is expected to outline further cost and job cuts and may announce plans to close a manufacturing plant.
Philippe Bonnon, a socialist politician with close links to Pierre Moscovici, the finance minister, told La Tribune that Mr Varin had “asked for a loan” from the government, which would see the state take some form of stake in the company. Mr Bonnin is mayor of a municipality in Rennes that is the site of one of Peugeot’s plants.
Jean-Marc Ayrault, the prime minister, announced this week that the government would soon unveil a plan to aid the French car industry, but gave no details.
Paris bailed out Peugeot and Renault with loans worth €6bn in 2009.
Peugeot sought to put a positive spin on its poor first-half sales by pointing to growth outside Europe and improved sales of higher-priced, higher-margin premium vehicles such as Peugeot’s RCZ roadster and Citroen’s DS line of cars.
The company said that sales outside Europe accounted for 39 per cent of the total in the first half, up from 38 per cent in the first half of 2011 and compared with 29 per cent in the first half of 2008.
“In a very tight automotive market environment in Europe, our strategy of moving upmarket and globalising our operations is proving to be more relevant than ever,” said Frédéric Saint-Geours, the group’s head of brands.
The company is due to report first-half financial results on July 25.