HANNOVER, Germany - German battery maker Varta AG returned to profit in the first four months of 1997, after three years of losses.
Varta CEO Erhard Schipporeit told the annual shareholders' meeting the result was 'better than expected,' but he did not give exact figures.
The recovery follows a restructuring program. Varta closed German plants, shifted production to the Czech Republic and invested in new technology.
Varta was unable to cope with price cuts demanded by Volkswagen when Ignacio Lopez was the chief purchasing executive.
The company has also suffered from the appreciation of the deutschemark since 1992.
Schipporeit admitted that Varta had reacted too slowly to new circumstances.
Varta's sales of starter batteries fell 2 percent to DM262 million ($154 million) in the first four months.
Auto components subsidiary Varta Plastic's sales rose 48 percent to DM34 million.
Varta sells batteries to OEMs under two brand names: Varta and Bosch. It claims 20 percent of the market. Varta has a cooperation agreement with Johnson Controls Inc., which has a large battery business in North America.
Rival battery maker Exide has around 40 percent of the Europe market. Exide recently bought German battery maker CEAG. CEAG brands are Deta and Mareg. CEAG was bought from the Quandt family - which still owns part of Varta and BMW.