PARIS (July 12)—Acquisitions and favorable exchange rates helped boost Hutchinson S.A's sales 17.7 percent last year to $2.35 billion, but earnings didn't keep pace because profits were squeezed by rising raw materials prices and continuous price pressure from customers, company management said in the firm's 2000 annual report. The diversified industrial rubber products producer expressed confidence in future profitability and growth, despite the sluggish economic environment that prevailed during early 2001, according to Chairman and CEO Jean-Bernard Lartigue. Sales from acquisitions during 2000 and late 1999 accounted for nearly half of the growth, Hutchinson said, with exchange rate changes accounting for about 25 percent. During fiscal 2000, Hutchinson acquired vibration-control specialist Barry Controls and earlier this year concluded the purchase of Iacesa, a Mexican automotive body sealing systems producer. Hutchinson's sales in North America grew 31.6 percent to $658 million.