FRANKFURT (Reuters) -- German supplier Continental AG expects business to remain strong through the end of the first quarter, bolstered by demand in the United States and in Asia, its CEO told a German newspaper.
"Sure, we will see declines (in the auto sector) in Europe because of the debt crisis," Elmar Degenhart told Sueddeutsche Zeitung in an interview published today.
"But there are opportunities for growth in America, and we will grow further in Asia. Both should more than compensate for weakness in Europe."
Degenhart said Continental posted a strong fourth quarter with sales just above the third-quarter level of about 7.7 billion euros ($10 billion).
"Demand from customers shows that we will continue at this good level until March," he said.
Degenhart said the company would continue efforts to reduce net debt to closer to 6 billion euros from about 7 billion now.
"By 2013, at the latest, we want to have an assessment by the rating agencies that will allow recommending the purchase of Conti bonds to normal investors," he said.
Asked about any possible merger between Continental and its majority shareholder Schaeffler, Degenhart said this was still an option but is not being discussed at the moment.
Continental ranks No. 3 on the Automotive News list of the top 100 global suppliers with estimated worldwide sales to automakers of $24.82 billion during its last fiscal year.