FRANKFURT - German steel and heavy engineering group ThyssenKrupp posted first-quarter pre-tax profit shy of analysts' consensus on Friday, but stuck to its aim of tripling earnings over the next two years.
"Provided that the economic environment at least does not deteriorate we aim to significantly improve profits for 2002-2003," the group said in a statement and reiterated a previous forecast of 1.5 billion euros pre-tax in 2003-2004.
The world's number-four flat carbon steel producer said pre-tax profit for the three months to December 31 rose to 141 million euros ($152.6 million) from 28 million a year ago. A Reuters poll of analysts had forecast an average of 184 million pre-tax.
Thyssen said it had cut net debt by 2.3 billion euros to 4.9 billion by the end of December, although that represented an increase in debt levels of 120 million euros compared to the end of its 2001-2002 financial year.
The group's core steel division swung back to profit in the quarter from a year ago, when a slump in steel prices and overcapacity in the sector hammered the group's profits.
Steel, which accounts for about a third of group sales, has long been expected to be one of the main profit drivers this year for the sprawling conglomerate, which also is a major producer of automotive parts.