Nippon Steel Corp., the nation’s largest steelmaker, said Thursday it swung back into profitability during the fiscal first half on the back of strong demand in China.

The company said it posted a net profit of 36.73 billion yen in the April-September period, having recorded a 5.1 billion yen loss a year earlier. Sales rose 6.9 percent to 1.34 trillion yen.

The firm said that steel production during the period stood at 15.2 million tons, up 200,000 tons from a year earlier.

It attributed the strong first-half showing to growing exports to China and to strong demand from domestic automakers and shipbuilders, which were also driven by brisk overseas demand.

The steelmaker said an increase in steel prices — 53,200 yen per ton compared with 48,200 yen a year ago — helped boost profits. Cost-cutting also contributed, it added.

The firm’s urban development business was also profitable during the period.

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