Packaging group Maillis yesterday signaled its willingness to go on the acquisition trail this year, once the slew of uncertainties disappear and the global economy gets back on track. In the last few years, the company has made a name for itself as an aggressive buyer of companies, amassing close to 10 firms in 2000 alone. A string of acquisitions has given Maillis a foothold in Spain, the UK, Germany, France, Sweden, Finland, Austria and most eastern European countries. It also has operations across the Atlantic. Overseas subsidiaries and interests contribute to 97 percent of total sales. The company last year took out a 130-million-euro syndicated loan to finance acquisitions. The uncertain economic environment, however, put a cap on takeovers. Maillis said it was «ready to move again aggressively in 2003,» once international markets regain their equilibrium later in the year in a move expected to boost results. Maillis reported consolidated pretax profits of 26.1 million euros last year against 25.9 million euros in 2001. Consolidated earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization rose 25.4 percent to 54.5 million euros from 43.5 million euros. Group sales were up by 14.8 percent to 310.9 million euros from 271 million euros. Maillis last year implemented drastic restructuring as it transferred production facilities from the UK to lower-cost countries, such as Poland, Greece and Italy, cutting down on production and administration costs. It also invested heavily in research and development. The company plans to propose a dividend of 6 cents per share to shareholders, corresponding to a 2.3 percent dividend yield. Maillis shares rose 0.78 percent yesterday to close at 2.59 euros.