HANOVER, Germany -- German tire and car parts maker Continental said on Tuesday it swung to an operating profit that beat expectations in the fourth quarter of 2002 but gave only a cautious outlook for the current year.
The world's fourth-largest tire maker said job cuts and factory closures made in 2001, tight control on investment spending and growing sales of its electronic auto safety systems had all helped it weather a weak economy, although its U.S. tire business continued to make a net loss.
Earnings before interest, tax and amortization for last year as a whole rose to $735 million from $35.2 million in 2001, while net debt was slashed by over a quarter to $2 billion.
"For 2003 we expect the operating result to be at the previous year's level," Continental CEO Manfred Wennemer told a news conference, adding that sales in January and February were above last year's levels.
He said the group's toughest restructuring steps in Europe were complete, but noted that it was difficult to give a precise forecast for this year because so many of its key carmaking clients had themselves only given vague outlooks.