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Business

Continental makes Internet history

Europe's second-largest tiremaker has become the first blue chips company in Germany to hold a fully digital press conference as it looked back at a strong 2014 and ahead to another year of booming business.

German automotive manufacturing giant Continental secured its place in the annals of Internet history on Thursday as the tire-making specialist became the first Dax-listed company to stream its annual earnings report exclusively online.

But it wasn't as though the corporation had anything to hide. The parts supplier said it achieved its annual targets in 2014 and that it was on track to repeat the success this year.

"Continental has had a good start to 2015, thus confirming our expectations for the entire year," CEO Elmar Degenhart told analysts and journalists, who could follow the webcast from the comfort of their office chairs and submit their questions via live chat.

The Hanover-based firm reported sales of 34.5 billion euros ($38.1 billion) in the previous year, securing an adjusted margin of 11.3 percent. The return on capital employed came to exactly 20 percent, marking the fifth consecutive year of growth in a row, the company said in a press release. Net indebtedness shrank by nearly 1.5 billion euros to approximately 2.8 billion euros.

The CEO said the results were particularly impressive considering "very weak growth in Europe, Russia, and South America," adding that China and North America were, once again, the driving forces behind the sales.

Full speed ahead

"In light of this, it is remarkable that profit after taxes of just under 2.4 billion euros or 11.88 euros per share could be achieved," Degenhart said.

Shareholders can look forward to a dividend raise for the third time in a row as the board proposed a distribution of 3.25 euros per share, "corresponding to a dividend payout ratio of 27.4 percent," up slightly from the previous year, according to the press release.

The strong numbers set Europe's second-largest maker of vehicle parts on track for another year of booming business. Continental said it aims to log a rise in sales of around 9 percent to some 37.5 billion euros, adding that it expects the weak euro to boost sales by an additional 1 billion euros.

The company also said it expected its margin on earnings before interest and taxes to exceed 10.5 percent in 2015.

Laying out its business roadmap for the next five years, Degenhart said Continental was aiming for profitable sales of over 50 billion euros in 2020.

pad/hg (dpa, Reuters)

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