Nissan Posts Record Fiscal Year Sales, $4.28 Billion Net Profit

Vehicle sales rose in Japan, the United States, Europe and Nissan's biggest market, China, where the firm said sales jumped about 22% in fiscal 2011.

Nissan Motor Co. (IW 1000/29) on Friday reported a $4.28 billion full-year net profit and record sales as the Japanese automaker shrugged off the devastating impact of last year's natural disasters on production.

Japan's second-biggest automaker said it earned 341.43 billion yen in the fiscal year to March, up 7% year-on-year, surpassing its forecast of 290 billion yen and bucking a national trend of falling auto profits.

The company said sales rose to their highest-ever 9.41 trillion yen with 4.85 million vehicles sold globally, even after a year that saw natural disasters and a high yen play havoc with many automakers' operations.

Vehicle sales rose in Japan, the United States, Europe and Nissan's biggest market, China, now the world's largest auto market, where the firm said sales jumped about 22% in fiscal 2011.

For the current year, Nissan said it expects a net profit of 400 billion yen on soaring sales of 10.3 trillion yen, and forecasts it will sell 5.35 million vehicles around the world, up about 10%.

This will be "a good year for the industry, particularly if you are in a well-equipped position," CEO Carlos Ghosn told a news briefing in the city of Yokohama, where the company is based.

"We want to be ... the No. 1 Asian brand in China, Russia and Brazil."

Ghosn added that "India's going to be very difficult because of the big presence of Suzuki.. but for China we are already No. 1. And in Russia we want to be the number one."

"In Brazil, we are investing to make it a reality," he said.

Nissan's results stood in stark contrast to fellow Japanese auto titans Toyota and Honda, whose full-year profits tumbled in the same period.

Masataka Kunugimoto, an auto analyst at Nomura Securities in Tokyo, said Nissan's results "were good partly because its rivals performed badly."

"But this year rival automakers will recover, so it could be a more difficult year for Nissan," he added.

However, the analyst said the firm's forecasts are "realistic given that Nissan's performance has been very good in China and the United States."

The first six months of 2011 were awful for Japanese manufacturers, with the lingering impact of the March earthquake-tsunami hamstringing production lines and electricity-saving measures squeezing capacity.

Nissan, Toyota and Honda all slashed production and shuttered plants because of power shortages and a component supply crunch.

Japanese exporters have been battling the crippling effects of a sky-high yen, which makes their products more expensive overseas and erodes repatriated profits, a point underscored by Ghosn on Friday.

"All the negativities of results [are] coming from the impact" of the yen, he said.

Flooding in Thailand that created a component shortage also proved a drag for firms with plants in the Southeast Asian nation.

On Wednesday, Toyota said its net profit for the year to March was 283.56 billion yen, a 30.5% on-year fall, while Honda late last month said its earnings for the period hit 211.5 billion yen, down about 60%.

Nissan on Friday said it will release 10 new products globally in the current fiscal year as the company locks horns with global heavyweights General Motors and Volkswagen.

The Japanese firm has announced it will dust off the shelved Datsun brand for emerging markets and start making a new midsize hatchback at its huge plant in Sunderland in the north of England from 2014.

It also is planning to build two models of its luxury Infiniti brand in China, while it and partner Renault this month announced a deal that gives them control of Russia's Avtovaz, owner of the iconic Lada brand.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2012

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