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Business

Business Briefs

Puma keeps leaping forward; ECB endorses Trichet as new president; German car dealers in low spirits and European Commission clears Wella takeover.

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Puma is aiming to become the world's leading sports lifestyle brand.

Puma pounces

The weak economy is not slowing down business at German sportswear and equipment company Puma. Chief executive Jochen Zeitz said at a annual shareholder meeting that he expected the strongest growth to come on the European and U.S. markets. In the United States alone, Puma expects sales to improve by more than €20 million to €30 million ($22.6 million to $33.9 million) to reach over €200 million. Zeitz said the strained political relations between Germany and the United States did not have any repercussions on Puma's business. Zeitz added that in the minds of U.S. consumers, Puma was anyway an international and not a German brand. "We remain focused on leveraging our positive momentum in order to make Puma the most desirable sport lifestyle brand," he said. Consolidated sales in the first half of 2003 leapt 46.8 percent to €644.0 million. The company also increased its profit expectations for the full year. It now expects pre-tax profits to surpass the €200 million hurdle for the first time ever.

ECB ready for Trichet to take the helm

The European Central Bank (ECB) in Frankfurt said Thursday its policy-making governing council had "no objections" to Bank of France Governor Jean-Claude Trichet becoming its new president. The bank met for its last policy-setting meeting before its traditional month-long summer break. Trichet is supposed to take over from the ECB's first-ever president, Dutchman Wim Duisenberg, on November 1 of this year. Duisenberg had originally been scheduled to retire at the beginning of July, but Trichet needed time to face legal proceedings against him. The Bank of France chief was accused but subsequently acquitted of charges of false accounting at French bank Credit Lyonnais at a time when he was director of the French treasury and the bank was still in state hands. In monetary issues, the ECB held its key interest rates steady as expected. The bank left its central refinancing rate unchanged at 2.00 percent and kept the deposit rate and the marginal lending rate at 1.00 percent and 3.00 percent, respectively.

Unsatisfied German car dealers

Germany's automobile dealers are not happy with car manufacturers, according to a poll by the Research Institute for the Automobile Industry FAW. The Institute's head Wolfgang Meinig said these results should be a danger signal for German automobile makers. He told the daily Die Welt that discontented dealers would not be fully committed to the makes they represent, not would they promote satisfied customers. Mercedes-Benz can report the most satisfied contractual partners, Meinig said. Porsche, on the other hand, has fallen out of favor from the second to the eleventh position. FAW questioned some 2,000 dealerships across the country.

Brussels approves Wella takeover

The European Commission has conditionally cleared the acquisition of German hair care company Wella by Procter and Gamble. The regulatory body said the deal raises competition problems in the market for all hair care products in Ireland, and in some hair care markets in Norway and Sweden. The U.S. group has therefore agreed to license several brands of hair care products for five years to a licensee approved by the Commission. This will be followed by a non-competition period of three years. The U.S. group in March acquired slightly more than 50 percent of Wella's capital, representing 77.57 percent of the voting rights, for €3.2 billion ($3.6 billion). It then launched a takeover, which was completed on June 20.