Schaeffler running smoothly on record 2011 sales | Business| Economy and finance news from a German perspective | DW | 20.03.2012
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Schaeffler running smoothly on record 2011 sales

Boosted by a huge 2011 profit, Europe's biggest manufacturer of ball bearings and car parts aims for further expansion. However, a controversial takeover of rival Continental hasn't been fully digested yet.

Schaeffler's sales topped 10 billion euros ($13 billion) for the first time in company history last year, increasing by 13 percent compared with 2010 and reaching a total of 10.7 billion euros, the industrial group said Tuesday.

Driven by a global automotive boom, the company - based in Herzogenaurach, Germany - also saw net profit rise to 889 million euros, comparing favorably with 63 million earned in 2010.

For the current financial year, Schaeffler chief executive Jürgen Geissinger expected sales to rise by "5 percent" as he saw "demand weaken" notably in the European car markets. But that growth target for 2012 would "continue to outpace" that of Schaeffler's core markets.

"We are anticipating particularly North America, but also China, India and Russia providing impetus for growth," Geissinger also said.

Debt galore

Europe's second-biggest car component maker Continental contributed 324 million euros to Schaeffler's profit last year.

In a hostile takeover in 2008, Schaeffler acquired 75 percent of Continental's shares, but has since been saddled with 12 billion euros in debt.

There was "no rush" to repay bank credit after the company had restructured its debt this year, Geissinger said, adding that the company's proceeds would be used for investments.

"We are pursuing a growth strategy. Debt reduction is only our second priority," he said.

uhe/ng (dpa, Reuters)