Nissan swings back into black

by Hiroko Nakata

YOKOHAMA — Nissan Motor Co. said Wednesday its earnings for the business year that ended in March returned to the black, helped by cost-cutting efforts, a fall in raw material and energy costs, and a global sales recovery especially in fast-growing China.

It posted a ¥311.6 billion group operating profit and a ¥42.4 billion net profit, turning around a ¥137.9 billion operating loss and a ¥233.7 billion net loss in the previous year when the global financial meltdown hit. They were the automaker’s first annual losses since President and CEO Carlos Ghosn took over a decade ago.

Sales, however, slipped 10.9 percent to ¥7.5 trillion from ¥8.4 trillion because the yen’s rise against major currencies offset a rise in sales of actual vehicles, Nissan said.

“Fiscal year 2009 was an extremely challenging year,” Ghosn said at a news conference at Nissan’s headquarters in Yokohama. “At no other time in history has the global automotive industry faced such threatening impacts from the financial crisis, widespread economic recession, a distressed supply base and volatile foreign-exchange rates.

“Though we are still operating in crisis mode, we are well on track toward complete recovery,” he continued.

“We know the worst of the crisis is behind us,” said Ghosn, who is also CEO of Renault SA, which holds a better than 40 percent stake in Nissan.

For the 2010 business year, the automaker is forecasting a ¥350 billion group operating profit and ¥150 billion net profit on sales of ¥8.2 trillion.

The positive outlook comes from Nissan’s improving sales, particularly in emerging markets, as well as synergy with Renault and Daimler AG, the company said.

In April, Renault and Nissan unveiled a wide-ranging three-way tieup with the German automaker, giving each a 3.1 percent stake in the others.

Yet some concerns remain, Ghosn cautioned.

He said 2010 will be another difficult year because the global economy is still shaky.