Indonesia's PT Astra International expects sales this year to rise by up to 10% on year due to an increase in new car sales, an Astra director told Dow Jones Newswires.

"We hope that sales this year will rise by between 5% and 10% from around IDR30 trillion last year," Astra finance director John Slack said. This year Astra plans to increase its market share to 44% from 42% in 2003 as it introduces newly-produced cars, he added.

Dow Jones said Slack expects total national vehicle sales in 2004 to increase to 360,000 from around 350,000 in 2003.

The report noted that Astra in November launched the Daihatsu Xenia and Toyota Avanza, new cars jointly developed by Daihatsu and its parent Toyota.

Slack told Dow Jones that Astra has so far received around 50,000 orders for the Avanza and Xenia.

"This number is very significant to be added to our total car sales this year, " he said.

Slack reportedly said Astra plans to buy back around $70 million in debt this year to lower its debt servicing costs.

"By the end of this year, we expect our debt to decrease to around $250 million from $320 million currently," he added.

Dow Jones said Astra has been trying to reduce its large overseas debt that has been weighing on its earnings since the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis.

Slack told the news agency that Astra also plans to put aside 25% of its net profit last year, or around 200 rupiah per share, for dividend payment.

Astra plans to hold a shareholders meeting on May 27 to approve the dividend payment, Dow Jones said.