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UPDATE 2-Nissan Q2 op profit beats consensus, lifts guidance

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UPDATE 2-Nissan Q2 op profit beats consensus, lifts guidance

Post  Swinderman on Wed Nov 02, 2011 4:10 am

YOKOHAMA, Japan, Nov 2 (Reuters) - Nissan Motor Co said its quarterly operating profit fell 4.6 percent, beating analysts' expectations and the company raised its annual forecast closer to the market consensus despite a strengthening yen, a shaky global economy and disruptive floods in Thailand.

Japan's No.2 automaker is set to outshine rivals Toyota Motor Corp and Honda Motor Co , which have been hit harder by the Thai floods and have been slower in boosting sales in emerging markets.

Nissan, held 43 percent by Re[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]nault SA , reported an operating profit of 159.3 billion yen ($2 billion) for July-September. That was better than an average estimate of 133 billion yen in a Reuters survey of 13 analysts. Second-quarter net profit was 98.4 billion yen, down 3.3 percent.

"We recovered production levels to pre-earthquake levels, while continuing activities to offset the yen's appreciation," Nissan's chief operating officer, Toshiyuki Shiga, told a news conference after the results were announced.
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"Nissan remains focused on emerging markets, as evidenced by our recently announced investment in a new plant in Rio de Janeiro," he said.

Nissan had recovered more quickly from a supply chain disruption caused by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in northeast Japan because it had stocked up on components to prepare for a big boost in vehicle production.

Nissan said it would aim to restart partial production in Thailand from Nov. 14, a move it said would limit lost output in the Southeast Asian export hub to 40,000 vehicles. The floods should not affect production in North America, Europe, and China, but may affect Japan, Shiga said, risking the loss of 20,000 units.

Investors have also cheered its aggressive approach to expand in emerging markets such as China and Russia, as well as to combat currency losses by importing more components from outside Japan. So far this year, Nissan's sales are up by double-digit percentages in every major market except Japan.

For the year to March 31, 2012, it lifted its operating profit forecast to 510 billion yen, above its initial estimate of 460 billion yen and bringing it near the consensus 520 billion in a survey of 25 analysts by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

"In spite of unfavourable currency fluctuations, numerous natural disasters and a volatile global economy, we remain on track to deliver a significantly profitable full-year performance," Nissan's chief executive, Carlos Ghosn, said in a statement.

With Honda unable to meet demand, Nissan outsold its rival in the profitable U.S. market during the quarter, although it fell below Honda in October.

Honda this week posted a 68 percent drop in second-quarter operating profit and withdrew its guidance given uncertainty surrounding the Thai floods.

Earlier on Wednesday, Mazda Motor Corp slashed its operating profit forecast to break-even from 20 billion yen -- below a consensus forecast of 4.45 billion yen -- citing prolonged yen strength. It now expects a net loss of 19 billion yen instead of a 1 billion yen profit forecast earlier.

Like other Japanese automakers, Nissan is grappling with a dollar that has weakened to record lows recently and remains below 80 yen, even after Japan's yen-selling intervention.

Nissan's Shiga said the company set the second-half dollar assumption at 80 yen in the hope that the Bank of Japan's yen-selling intervention would have a lasting impact.

Nissan also faces [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]a slowdown in China, its biggest market, which JP Morgan Securities estimates accounts for a quarter of its operating profit. Toyota and Honda report under U.S. accounting standards and their Chinese earnings appear only on the bottom-line.

As part of its push to take the premium Infiniti line global, Nissan said on Wednesday it would locate the brand's global headquarters in Hong Kong to target wealthy consumers in China and elsewhere. CEO Carlos Ghosn has said Nissan would likely build Infiniti cars in China eventually because much of the growth in demand would be in that market.

Nissan's shares have fallen 6.7 percent in the year to date, faring much better than Toyota and Honda, which are down 19 percent and 25 percent, respectively.

Before the results were announced on Wednesday, Nissan shares ended down 2.8 percent and Mazda lost 5.4 percent.

"Nissan raised their sales estimate, but it appears to be in line with consensus, so we can't say it's a surprise. But the latest results provide some evidence that Nissan is coming through the Thai flood crisis better than its rivals," said Hiroyuki Fukunaga, CEO of Investrust in Tokyo, which does not own Nissan shares.

"Nissan is trading at about 10 times expected earnings, making it cheaper than Toyota, which is trading at about 19 times and Honda, which is about 15 times."[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

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