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Auto Parts Supplier Continental Says 2006 Profit Rose 5%

Tire maker and auto parts supplier Continental said Thursday its 2006 net profit rose 5.6% that it expects earnings this year to grow at the same pace.

The company earned 982 million euros ($1.3 billion) in 2006 compared with 930 million euros a year earlier. Sales rose nearly 8% to 14.89 billion euros ($19.57 billion).

The company did not provide its fourth-quarter figures.

"We're expecting a sales increase of at least 5% in 2007," Chief Executive Manfred Wennemer told reporters after the results were released.

Continental proposed a dividend of 2 euros ($2.63) a share for 2006.

The Hanover-based company is one of the biggest suppliers of braking systems to the automotive industry in Europe and North America.

It sells tires under the Continental, General and Uniroyal brands, and its U.S. operations include plants in Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Tennessee and Texas.

While its rivals have suffered from high production costs and slowdowns, Continental has avoided a similar fate by shifting much of its production to lower-cost countries in South American, Asia and Eastern Europe.