Nissan reports 72.5% jump in group profit

by Hiroko Nakata

Staff Writer

Nissan Motor Co. said Thursday its group operating profit jumped 72.5 percent to ¥537.47 billion for the business year ended in March, mostly on the back of strong sales in China and other emerging markets.

However, the company said losses stemming from the March 11 quake and tsunami reached ¥39.6 billion for that year.

“As a result of the natural catastrophe that struck Japan on March 11, Nissan and the rest of the Japanese auto industry ended the fiscal year back in recovery mode,” President and CEO Carlos Ghosn said at a news conference.

Ghosn did not offer a profit forecast for the business year that started April 1, saying it is too early to assess the overall impact of the disaster. He promised to give a forecast at a corporate shareholders’ meeting in June.

For the 2010 business year that ended in March, Nissan marked record-high global sales of 4.19 million units, up 19.1 percent from 3.52 million units the previous year.

China emerged as its biggest market, with sales rising 35.5 percent to 1.02 million units.

As a result, Nissan’s group sales stood at ¥8.77 trillion, up 16 percent from a year earlier. Group net profit was ¥319.22 billion, compared with ¥42.39 billion a year earlier, mainly thanks to the sale of Volvo shares held by parent company Renault SA.

“Although the parts supply situation in Japan is not yet stable, we expect to restore Nissan operations and recover lost performance in October,” Ghosn added.

He pointed to three challenges facing the company as it tries to increase sales of the Leaf, its new electric vehicle: disruptions in the supply chain; power shortages if demand exceeds supply this summer; and rumors about radioactive contamination from the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant.