Sweden's AB Electrolux said its crucial North American floor-care market was "leveling out", but it still expected 2003 operating results to be "somewhat lower than 2002."
"What we are saying is that the results will be somewhat lower than last year, of course affected by such things as currencies, but we still have a quarter to go," Electrolux president and CEO Hans Straberg told Reuters.
Commenting on the North American market, Mr. Straberg said in an interview: "We see the market leveling out. We will over time have a pick-up, but I don't have a specific time when we're going to turn the corner and we don't expect to come back to the very good margins we had a couple of years ago."
Mr. Straberg spoke to Reuters during a visit to New York, NY, U.S. for the launch of an array of new floor-care products, which Electrolux hopes will help reverse falling sales in a region, where intense competition has seen consumers migrate more to lower-priced vacuum cleaners.
North America accounts for some 40 percent of Electrolux's annual sales, according to Mr. Straberg. He said Electrolux was focusing on cutting costs and investing more on product innovation to develop premium products that would help it better compete with arch rivals like Whirlpool Corp. and Maytag Corp.
Looking at Europe, he said there was yet "no sign of a recovery", but Eastern Europe continued to underpin sales growth.
Electrolux's globally-sold vacuum cleaners, dishwashers, and refrigerators make it an indicator for big ticket consumer items in the U.S. and European markets, as well a pointer to the overall economic cycle.
Mr. Straberg said among the newest products being launched for the North American market was the company's Trilobite range of automatic vacuum cleaners, which would sell for about U.S. $1,000 each, starting in mid-February.
Major North American retailers tapped to carry the new products -- some of which already sell in Asia and Europe -- include home improvement chain Lowe's Cos and Sears, Roebuck and Co. (Reuters)
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