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VW trucks arm Traton targets steady margin after 2023 profit jump

First day of trading of German carmaker Volkswagen's truck unit Traton in Frankfurt

(Reuters) -Volkswagen trucks arm Traton on Tuesday forecast a steady 2024 return on sales after its core earnings almost doubled on pent-up post-pandemic demand for commercial vehicles.

The maker of MAN and Scania trucks expects an adjusted operating return on sales of 8-9% in 2024, in line with the 8.6% reported for last year.

The group reported a 95% jump in 2023 adjusted operating profit to 4 billion euros ($4.34 billion), beating the consensus estimate compiled by Vara Research.

But its order backlog fell by a fifth last year, Traton said in late January.

"With the market environment for trucks generally softening in some regions, we will remain extremely focused in 2024 and capitalise on our strengths," Chief Executive Christian Levin said.

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The truck sector is braced for a tougher 2024 with analysts flagging a downturn in demand in Europe and North America after historic highs reached last year thanks to pent-up demand after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Munich-based firm gave a broad outlook on 2024 unit sales of -5% to +10%, representing the sector's uncertainty.

European truck makers Daimler Truck and AB Volvo have also taken a cautious stance on 2024 after reporting higher sales last year.

Traton's executive board said it would propose a dividend of 1.5 euros per share, more than double last year's payout of 0.7 euros.

Its shares fell as much as 2% at the open in Frankfurt before stabilising to trade roughly flat by 0805 GMT.

($1 = 0.9219 euros)

(Reporting by Andrey Sychev and Eva Orsolya Papp; editing by Bartosz Dabrowski)