HERZOGENRACH, Germany -- Puma AG, an athletic footwear and apparel group, returned to the black with pretax profits of $6.9 million (11.5 million marks) on a 0.7 percent drop in sales to $70.1 million (117.1 million marks) in the first quarter ended March 31.

This compares with pretax losses of 11.8 million marks on sales of 117.9 million marks for the corresponding period a year earlier.

Jochen Zeitz, who became Puma's chairman in May, said the group has returned to profit a year ahead of plan. The first quarter is the most important for the group and he predicted Puma would be profitable for the whole of 1994.

The first-quarter profit follows a loss of $41.2 million (68.8 million marks) on sales of $706.2 million (1.18 billion marks) in 1993. Of total sales, 55.4 percent were in footwear, 38.9 percent in apparel and the remainder in accessories.

The loss last year was a result of charges for restructuring, including closure of Puma's last plant in Herzogenrach. The firm is sourcing now primarily from the Far East and Eastern Europe. Other restructuring moves included creation of independent profit centers, reduction in management levels and the closure of six warehouses in favor of a single distribution center.

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