Mazda Motor Corp. said Wednesday it returned to the black in the 2001 business year thanks to cost-cutting measures and a weakened yen.

The Hiroshima Prefecture-based automaker posted consolidated net profits of 8.8 billion yen, marking a sharp turnaround from the group net losses of 155.2 billion yen logged a year earlier. Its group sales stood at 2.09 trillion yen, up 3.9 percent.

Mazda’s group pretax profits came to 19.2 billion yen, up from pretax losses of 29.7 billion yen posted a year earlier.

The firm chalked up consolidated operating profits of 28.5 billion yen, against operating losses of 14.9 billion yen logged the previous year.

The yen’s average drop of 13 percent against the dollar benefited Mazda more than most Japanese rivals as the company exports two-thirds of its domestic output.

Mazda, which is Japan’s fifth-largest car manufacturer and is owned 33.4 percent by Ford Motor Co., said it will pay an annual dividend of 2 yen per share.

During the year, Mazda sold 948,000 units worldwide, down 1.6 percent from a year earlier. Its sales increased in North America but declined in Europe and on the domestic market, where the firm did not launch any new products.

For this year, Mazda expects its consolidated sales to increase 7.4 percent to 2.25 trillion yen, with group pretax profits of 37 billion yen.

It expects to sell 1 million units globally, up 5.5 percent.

Mazda said it plans to raise its cost-cutting target to 20 percent over the next three years from the current 15 percent. The firm is in the second year of its Millennium Plan to restructure that will run until March 2005.

In addition, Mazda said it will reduce the number of its board directors to nine from 23 after obtaining approval at a shareholders’ meeting in June.

The firm will also launch by the end of this year a management advisory committee made up of outside experts.

Mazda President Mark Fields said these moves are aimed at increasing transparency within the firm and facilitating faster decision-making.

Fuji Heavy pulls out

Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., the maker of Subaru cars, plans to pull out of the loss-making rail-car and bus-body production businesses, company sources said Wednesday.

According to the sources, the company plans to focus its management resources on promising areas, such as automobiles and aerospace.

A formal announcement is expected Friday, they added.

Fuji Heavy produces rail cars at a plant in Tochigi Prefecture and bus bodies at a plant in Gunma Prefecture. Workers at these plants will not lose their jobs as the plants deal with other products, the sources said.

The company currently makes about 500 bus bodies a year on behalf of Nissan Diesel Motor Co. and others. However, orders have continually declined since the end of the asset-inflated bubble economy a decade ago.

Annual production of rail cars comes to only several dozen units a year. Both divisions suffered operating losses of more than 4 billion yen each year in the 1999 and 2000 business years.

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