BERLIN Germany's Continental AG (CONG.DE) posted a sharper-than-expected drop in first-quarter sales as the slump in core European auto markets was exacerbated by bad weather and fewer working days, Euro am Sonntag reported, citing finance chief Wolfgang Schaefer.
Sales at the auto parts and tire maker in the January-March quarter fell slightly more than the projected drop between 1 and 3 percent, Schaefer was quoted by the weekly newspaper as saying in an interview.
First-quarter operating profit declined below very strong year-ago levels, but stayed within expectations, the CFO told Euro am Sonntag, without being more specific.
Despite the decline in European car markets, Continental trusts that group business will steadily improve following a first-quarter low to help achieve a targeted 5-percent increase in 2013 sales to over 34 billion euros ($44.53 billion), according to Schaefer.
The CFO reiterated ambitions to grow overall business by making purchases outside of Europe. Continental's reduced debt would allow the Hanover-based group to shoulder possible acquisitions worth about 1 billion euros, he said.
(Reporting by Andreas Cremer, editing by William Hardy)