CLEVELAND--Worldwide sales of disposable and rechargeable batteries will total $60 billion in 2004.

According to a study by The Freedonia Group, battery sales will grow 8 percent annually during the next 4 years. Sales growth will be powered by robust demand for portable electronic devices, such as mobile phones and handheld information processing systems.

The best prospects will be in less advanced nations whose electrical and electronic equipment markets are growing rapidly. The largest, best developed and most techni-cally advanced battery markets will be found in industrialized countries.

Demand for rechargeable batteries will increase faster than demand for disposable ones. Key growth areas include lithium ion batteries, lithium polymer batteries and "super premium" disposable alkaline batteries.

Batteries will face increasingly stiff competition from alternative power sources, such as microturbines and fuel cells, especially in such applications as back-up power supplies, low-emission motor vehicles and industrial motive power.

The largest battery producing countries in the world are Japan, the United States, China, Germany, France and the United Kingdom.