Nissan Returns To Black In Q4, Annual Profit Soars

Japan's second-biggest automaker Nissan returned to the black in January-March, despite the impact of a devastating earthquake and tsunami on production.

Japan's second-biggest automaker Nissan returned to the black in January-March, despite the impact of a devastating earthquake and tsunami on production, as annual net profit soared more than seven-fold.

Nissan President and CEO Carlos Ghosn told reporters the auto giant would return to "full and unrestricted production by October," but like its peers the carmaker skipped a forecast for the current financial year due to the quake.

Worldwide sales and also those in China, Nissan's largest single market, hit record highs while sales rose in the United States and Europe, helping to offset the negative impacts of a strong yen and faltering domestic demand.

"The March 11 earthquake in Japan significantly disrupted our operations, but Nissan is once again proving its resilience in the face of adversity," said Ghosn, adding that the company "remained in recovery mode" as it has done since the 2009 financial crisis.

"Although the effects of this tragedy continue to affect our operations, we are poised for a robust recovery."

Nissan was the only one of Japan's big three automakers to post improved net income in the January-March period from a year earlier, posting a profit of 30.8 billion yen ($380.60 million) from a loss of 11.6 billion yen last year.

Toyota reported a fourth quarter net profit decline of 77 percent, while Honda saw a 38 percent fall.

Nissan's annual net profit soared more than seven times from a year earlier to 319.2 billion yen ($3.9 billion) in the year in which it began selling its all-electric Leaf car in Japan, the United States and some parts of Europe.

The 9.0-magnitude earthquake and the resulting tsunami hammered Japanese production, shattered supply chains and crippled electricity-generating facilities, including a nuclear power plant at the centre of an ongoing atomic emergency.

Amid parts shortages, Nissan was hit by production disruptions domestically and overseas, but said restoration work by its suppliers "has progressed much more rapidly than initially expected."

To overcome electricity shortages, Nissan is considering boosting its nighttime operations and in-house power generation, Ghosn said.

Nissan's operating profit surged 72.5 percent to 537.5 trillion yen in the year, despite a 147.5 billion yen hit from the appreciation of the yen against the US dollar.

The Japanese unit soared to a post-war high against the greenback in March in the aftermath of the quake.

The automaker posted record global sales of 4.185 million vehicles worldwide, a 19.1 percent increase as the auto industry rebounded from the demand-sapping effects of the financial crisis.

Sales in Japan declined 4.7 percent however as the industry was hit by the expiration of consumer incentives to buy greener vehicles.

It declined to give a forecast for the current financial year as it continues to assess the impact of the March 11 twin disasters.

Ghosn said the company would try to issue its forecasts in June, in time for a shareholders' meeting.

Nissan shares closed up 1.40 percent at 795 yen on Thursday ahead of the earnings release.

Copyright by Agence France-Presse, 2011

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