Robert Bosch has said said its group revenue growth could fall this year due to a weaker world economy, lower US exports and pressure on prices.

The firm, controlled by the Robert Bosch Foundation that holds 92% of its equity, expects revenues to climb by 3% to 5% this year after posting a gain of about 5% to almost $US56.9bn (EUR43.7bn) in 2006, Reuters reported.

Speaking to the news agency, Bosch CEO Franz Fehrenbach reportedly opened the door to improved profitability in the current year and forecast the company’s return would remain in its target range.

“We want a (pretax profit) margin of 7% to 8%,” Fehrenbach told Reuters.

He said preliminary results for 2006 showed the privately held industrial conglomerate’s profitability declined to around 7% before tax, translating to around $US3.99bn (EUR3.06bn), the report added.

Reuters noted that Bosch had warned last April that a rise in raw material costs, in particular for energy and base metals such as aluminum and copper, would likely mean that it would not be able to maintain its pretax margin of 7.7% from 2005.

“After four years of price hikes for raw materials, it looks as if the prices will ease slightly in 2007,” Fehrenbach reportedly said.

Revenue at Bosch’s core automotive division, which specialises in fuel-injection technology and safety features such as stability control and ABS, increased by 3.5% to $35.42bn (EUR27.2bn), Reuters said.