MAN AG on Thursday reported a strong rise in first-quarter profits that met market expectations, and reportedly gave more specific earnings guidance for 2004.

According to Reuters, truck maker MAN, which also makes printing machines and rocket booster components for the space industry, said pre-tax earnings swung to a profit of €32 million ($US38.03 million) from a loss of €31 million a year ago.

The industrial conglomerate reportedly said in a statement it was increasingly optimistic about full-year earnings following a string of robust monthly order intakes.

It also said the first-quarter performance, order intake in April and orders prompted by a printing trade fair had strengthened its conviction that MAN would achieve pre-tax profit of about €400 million this year, Reuters added.

It also reportedly forecast a “marked” improvement in sales and new orders for 2004 – the group had 2003 pre-tax profit of €261 million.

Reuters noted that MAN chief executive Rudolf Rupprecht had previously predicted a considerable rise in earnings as the group increasingly benefits from its successful cost-cutting programme.

First-quarter earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) jumped to €72 million from €12 million in 2003, while the company posted a net income of €21 million after reporting a loss of €19 million in the first quarter of the previous year, the report said.

According to a Reuters poll of 18 analysts, EBIT was forecasted at €70 million, pre-tax at €33 million and net at €20 million.