• Kyodo News

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Nippon Steel Corp. said Friday it earned a record-high group net profit for the third consecutive year in business 2006, helped by strong sales growth amid brisk demand for medium- and high-grade steel products from the auto, shipbuilding and energy sectors.

The leading steelmaker’s consolidated net profit rose 2.1 percent in the year to March 31 from the previous year to 351.18 billion yen on sales of 4.30 trillion yen, up 10.1 percent. Its pretax profit advanced 9.2 percent to 597.64 billion yen.

The company will pay an annual dividend of 10 yen per share for the 2006 business year, including a yearend dividend of 6 yen. The 2006 dividend is 1 yen higher than the prior year.

Nippon Steel said supplies of medium- and high-grade steel products for the auto, shipbuilding and other manufacturing industries remained tight in the steel market at home and abroad.

The market for commodity-grade steel products stabilized as rising demand in global steel markets absorbed production increases in China, it said.

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