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Aston Martin beats car-sales goal, bullish on 2019 growth

London

ASTON Martin beat its 2018 car-sales target and predicted further growth this year as the luxury automaker seeks to rebound from a shaky initial public offering in October.

The Gaydon, England-based company sold 6,441 vehicles last year, a gain of 26 per cent and above the top end of the forecast range, according to a statement on Thursday. It reiterated a target of 7,100 to 7,300 car sales for 2019.

Aston Martin's new plant at St Athan, Wales - set to produce the DBX, the company's first sport utility vehicle and a vital part of its expansion plans - is complete with the first production trial set to begin next quarter and full production due in the second half.

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The plan to boost sales comes as global auto markets are slowing, and carmakers such as Daimler AG have issued cautious forecasts. Investors will look for assurances Aston Martin is immune to the slowdown, said Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Michael Dean.

Chief executive officer Andy Palmer plans to cope with a possible no-deal Brexit by importing parts via a variety of ports to reduce the impact of customs delays, and even source components by air. The company will tap £30 million (S$53.8 million) of extra working capital if needed, though has committed only £2 million.

Aston Martin has argued that it should be viewed as on a par with Ferrari NV, an aspiration that's brought immediate pressure as the Italian company is more profitable with a stronger balance sheet and higher earnings multiples. The UK company confirmed that it plans to deliver 14,000 cars a year in the medium term, more than doubling current production.

Aston Martin shares closed at 1,374.40 pence on Wednesday, 27 per cent below the IPO price of £19 a share. That gives the company a market value of £3.13 million, less than one-fifth that of Ferrari, which listed in 2015. BLOOMBERG