BERLIN (Reuters) -- German engineering group Schaeffler said operating profit rose 36 percent in the third quarter because of recovering car demand in Europe and growth in China, which helped the group confirm earnings forecasts for the year.
Schaeffler said earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) increased to 428 million euros ($536.7 million) from 314 million euros in the year-earlier period. Quarterly sales rose 8 percent to 3.03 billion euros from 2.81 billion.
The group, which produces components and systems for automotive and industrial applications, generates about three-quarters of sales from its automotive business.
Car demand in Europe, where Schaeffler earns about 60 percent of its revenue, has grown for 14 straight months after a six-year slump, though it remains vulnerable to stagnant or slowing growth in the region's major economies.
"Despite the challenging environment, we again managed to continue along our growth path while also improving the quality of our earnings," CEO Klaus Rosenfeld said.
Schaeffler, the biggest shareholder in fellow German supplier Continental, confirmed its forecasts for an operating EBIT margin of between 12 and 13 percent for the full year and sales growth in excess of 7 percent, adjusted for currency swings.
The family-owned company has lowered net debt to 5.77 billion euros at the end of September from more than 10 billion euros during the 2008-2009 financial crunch when Schaeffler's hostile bid for much larger rival Continental AG backfired.