Nissan posts profit, warns of 30% drop

From Times Wire Services

Nissan Motor Co. became the latest major Japanese automaker to report booming earnings for the just-ended fiscal year -- and forecast a plunge in profit for the current year, blaming a rising yen and soaring material costs.

"There is no way we can overcome these head winds," Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn said Tuesday at Nissan's Tokyo headquarters.

Nissan, Japan's third-biggest automaker, expects profit for the fiscal year through March to plunge 30% to 340 billion yen ($3.3 billion). Last fiscal year, its net profit rose 5% to 482.3 billion yen ($4.6 billion).

Bigger rivals Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. also announced strong annual earnings and dismal forecasts amid worries about the slumping U.S. economy and strong yen. Toyota is projecting a 27% tumble in fiscal-year profit, while Honda foresees an 18% drop.

For the January-March quarter, Nissan's profit rose 67% to 137.6 billion yen ($1.3 billion). That includes one-time "fifth-quarter" numbers from overseas subsidiaries that were added to the previous year's fourth quarter to put all global units on the same fiscal calendar. Without those numbers, Nissan said, quarterly profit jumped 95%.

In a news conference, Ghosn promised that Nissan would take the lead in electric vehicles.

Under a new five-year business plan through March 2013, Nissan will introduce an electric vehicle in the U.S. and Japan in 2010, and mass-market such vehicles globally in 2012, he said.

Nissan sold 3.77 million vehicles worldwide for the fiscal year ended March 31, up 8.2% from the previous year. In North America, Nissan's sales totaled 1.35 million vehicles, up 1.3%.

Although fiscal-year sales were down 2.5% in Japan at 721,000 vehicles, they climbed 17.9% in Europe to 636,000 and gained 22% in other overseas markets, including China, at 1.06 million -- passing the 1 million mark for the first time.

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