The second-quarter results of multinational packaging and strapping group Maillis, released yesterday, confirmed the firm’s earlier projections for a 15 percent growth in core operations in 2004. First-half group sales grew 14.8 percent to 168.2 million euros, from 146.5 million in the same period in 2003. The group’s parent company in Greece registered an increase of 27 percent in sales in the first half to a record 57.6 million euros, against 45.4 million euros in the first six months of 2003. Citigroup last week upgraded the group’s credit rating to «buy/high risk» from «hold/high risk,» and raised its target price to 4 euros from 3.50 euros previously. Citigroup said in its July 26 report that investments made by Maillis in the 1998-2003 period are expected to begin yielding profits, and that the US market presents significant growth opportunities for Maillis, which is a market leader in Europe. Analysts had also expressed satisfaction with Maillis’s first-quarter results due to an improved economic outlook in the markets in which it has a presence. The group’s sales grew more than 25-fold to about 300 million euros between 1994 and 2002, 97 percent of which has been abroad. This includes 35 industrial and distribution companies in 20 countries, mainly in Europe and North America. Since 1994, its product range has expanded from one type of metal strap to a large number of plastic straps, packaging films, tools and strapping equipment. The firm has said it plans to expand its commercial and productive presence in the US and Eastern Europe, while also exploring the market potential in Asia. For 2004, it has set as its main priority an improvement in its cash flows, with a view to launching new investment initiatives in 2005.