Nissan posts $380 million quarterly profit

TOKYO (AP) — Nissan says it rounded out a record year for car sales by returning to the profit in the fourth quarter after a loss the year before but Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn acknowledged serious challenges from Japan’s natural disasters.

The good news Thursday was clouded by uncertainties surrounding the damage from Japan’s quake, tsunami and nuclear crises that have disrupted production for Nissan and other Japanese automakers.

Nissan Motor Co., allied with Renault SA of France, reported a 30.77 billion yen ($380 million) profit for January-March, a turnaround from a 11.6 billion yen loss a year earlier. Quarterly sales jumped 10 percent to 2.35 trillion yen ($29 billion)

Ghosn said production at Nissan plants worldwide will be back at pre-disaster levels by October, after which the company will make up for lost production.

He did not give an earnings forecast for the current fiscal year through March 2012, but promised projections would be ready by a shareholders’ meeting in June.

For the fiscal year ended March 2011, profit at Nissan, which makes the Leaf electric vehicle and the March subcompact, totaled 319.2 billion yen, more than seven times what it earned the previous year when Nissan was still recovering from the global financial crisis that battered auto sales.

Annual sales jumped nearly 17 percent to 8.77 trillion yen ($108 billion)

The Yokohama-based automaker sold 4.185 million vehicles for the fiscal year, up 19.1 percent from 3.515 million the previous year. The global auto industry had grown a smaller 12.6 percent during that period.

Ghosn said Nissan suffered from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, including the deaths of five employees.

But it was showing it can bounce back, he told reporters at Yokohama headquarters.

“Our recovery is going smoothly and robustly,” Ghosn said. “Fiscal year 2010 was a record year for Nissan in terms of sales and growth.”

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Yuri Kageyama can be reached at http://twitter.com/yurikageyama

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