Major steelmakers JFE Holdings Co. and Kobe Steel Ltd. both reported strong earnings Thursday for fiscal 2005 to March 31, thanks to robust domestic and overseas demand.

JFE recorded an all-time high group net profit of 326.0 billion yen, up 103.7 percent from the previous year, while Kobe Steel reported its second-highest net profit, at 84.56 billion yen, up 64.9 percent.

JFE also reported a pretax profit of 517.31 billion yen, up 12.3 percent, on sales of 3.10 trillion yen, up 10.5 percent. It attributed the strong performance to booming economies in East Asia and elsewhere that spurred higher-than-expected demand for steel.

Kobe Steel posted a pretax profit of 176.93 billion yen, up 52.5 percent, on sales of 1.67 trillion yen, up 15.5 percent. Sales in the mainstay iron and steel segment rose 20.1 percent to 758.3 billion yen, supported by robust demand from the shipbuilding, automotive and industrial machinery sectors.

But Kobe Steel’s net profit was squeezed by extraordinary losses from the spinoff of a real estate company, environmental protection costs and damage from a fire at a steel plant in Hyogo Prefecture.

Despite the setbacks, Kobe Steel plans to double its dividend to 6 yen per share.

JFE will more than double its dividend to 100 yen per share from 45 yen in fiscal 2004.

For the current business year to next March, JFE expects a slight increase in sales. But pretax and net profits are forecast to decline.

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