By Liz White, UT staffWinterthur, Switzerland-Sales at Swiss group Rieter increased last year by 1.8 percent to SwFr 3173 million, exceeding the firm's previous record sales in 2001. Operating result (EBIT) for the supplier of automotive acoustic systems and textile equipment rose by 4.0 percent to SwFr 211 million and net profit by 18.8 percent to SwFr 138 million. Rieter said the year saw "a revival in the global economy and strong economic development in Asia," the latter primarily from China. The US and Japan, also showed dynamic development, Rieter said. EU countries recorded much lower growth rates, in contrast, the group added. Development in Rieter's two markets-textile machinery and automotive supply-during 2004 was weaker than expected, as a result, Rieter said, of high raw material and energy costs, a weak US dollar and political uncertainties. Despite this, orders increased 4 percent to SwFr 3088 million and sales by 2 percent to SwFr 3173 million. Sales growth in its Automotive Systems division "more than compensated" for a decline at Textile Systems. The two largest markets for Rieter were North America and France, followed by China, which moved up from ranking fourth the previous year. Rieter Automotive Systems posted a 5.5 percent rise in sales to SwFr1979 million in 2004. Operating result improved by SwFr 14 million to SwFr 98 million. This was achieved while vehicle production remained at the previous year's level in Rieter's main markets-Western Europe and North America. "