HEIDELBERG (dpa-AFX) - Machine builder Heidelberger Druck was able to maintain its earnings almost at the previous year's level in the first nine months thanks to improved business in the packaging segment. The SDax-listed company announced in Heidelberg on Wednesday that sales in the first nine months to the end of December had fallen by 2.5 percent year-on-year to 1.69 billion euros. In contrast, operating profit looks better, partly due to a savings program. Adjusted for special effects, earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) increased by eight percent to 135 million euros. The corresponding margin improved from 7.2 percent in the previous year to 8.0 percent. At the bottom line, profit in the first three quarters fell by a good third to 34 million euros due to higher taxes and increased interest expenses for pensions, for example. The company confirmed its targets for the 2023/24 financial year./mne/zb