The German maker of sportswear and equipment, Puma, said Tuesday that earnings rose strongly in the first three months of the current year thanks to buoyant demand for its footwear and sports apparel. Puma said in a statement that it booked net profit of 90.9 million euros ($118 million) in the period from January to March, an increase of 13.5 percent from a year earlier. Earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) were up by 13 percent at 131.5 million euros on an 11.9-percent rise in sales to 496.5 million euros, the statement said. "We were once again able to show strong overall growth and profitability on a very high level in the first quarter, setting the basis for another record year in 2005," chairman Jochen Zeitz said. "Taking into account our strong first-quarter performance, we expect to achieve mid-to-high single-digit sales growth for the whole of 2005 and we are optimistic that earnings will also see mid-to-high single-digit growth, so that both sales and profit will rise to new records," Zeitz said.