Nissan quarterly profit rises despite floods, yen

TOKYO (AP) — Nissan’s quarterly profit rose 3.2 percent on healthier sales that offset production damage from flooding in Thailand and a battering from the strong yen.

Yokohama-based Nissan Motor Co. on Wednesday reported October-December third quarter profit of 82.7 billion yen ($1.07 billion), up from 80.1 billion yen a year earlier.

The Japanese automaker allied with Renault SA of France sold 1.2 million vehicles worldwide during the quarter, an increase of 19.5 percent compared with the last three months of 2010.

Quarterly sales surged 10.9 percent to 2.331 trillion yen ($30.3 billion).

“Significant external headwinds such as the abnormally strong yen and floods in Thailand challenged us,” said Nissan President and Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn.

“Nissan responded decisively to these challenges, boosted by the strength of our product,” he said.

Nissan, which makes the March subcompact and Infiniti luxury models, kept its profit forecast for the fiscal year through March 2012 unchanged at a 290 billion yen ($3.8 billion).

Nissan also makes the Leaf electric vehicle, which it said was the best-selling electric vehicle ever, having sold 22,000 Leaf cars worldwide last year.

Nissan plans to start selling the Leaf in more places, including Europe this year.

The automaker said the dollar was trading at about 77 yen during the latest quarter, plunging dramatically from 83 yen the previous year. A strong yen erodes earnings from Japanese products sold overseas.

The past year has been a challenge for all Japanese automakers after key suppliers were shut down by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan.

The Thai floods, which also disrupted the supply chain, hit late last year just as the automakers were recovering from the March disaster disruptions.

Nissan’s vehicle sales for the first nine months of the fiscal year rose in all key regions, except for disaster-struck Japan, with sales up 12 percent in North America, up nearly 21 percent in Europe and up 20 percent in China.

The auto market in Japan has been relatively stagnant in recent years so Nissan is investing in growth in other markets such as Mexico, Brazil, China, India and Indonesia.

Nissan stock rose 2.4 percent to 774 yen. The quarterly results were released after the stock market closed.

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