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Nissan Motor Co. said Tuesday it logged in business 2008 its first annual loss since Carlos Ghosn took the reins a decade ago and is projecting a group net loss of ¥170 billion for this business year.

Echoing its rivals, Nissan said its earnings were badly eroded by shrinking global demand for cars amid the sharp recession and stronger yen, which crippled its overseas profits.

For the year that ended in March, Japan’s third-largest automaker booked a group net loss of ¥233.71 billion, its first red ink since fiscal 1999, when Ghosn joined Nissan’s management team from France’s Renault SA.

The loss marked a sharp turnaround from its profit of ¥482.26 billion in 2007, but it was smaller than the ¥265 billion Nissan projected in February thanks to aggressive cost-cutting efforts, including 20,000 job cuts and market growth in China.

Nissan, which is 44 percent owned by Renault, also logged a smaller than expected operating loss of ¥137.92 billion, its first since fiscal 1994, on sales of ¥8.44 trillion, down 22.1 percent from a year earlier.

Nissan joins Toyota Motor Corp. and Isuzu Motors Ltd. in forecasting red ink ahead. It is projecting a group operating loss of ¥100 billion through next March on sales of ¥6.95 trillion.

In 2008, Nissan sold 3.41 million vehicles worldwide, down 9.5 percent from a year earlier as recession-hit consumers shunned expensive purchases.

Sales in Japan fell 15.1 percent to 612,000 units, while sales in the United States dropped 19.1 percent to 856,000.

For the current business year, Nissan said it plans to sell 3.08 million units, down 9.7 percent from 2008.

It produced 3.08 million vehicles globally in fiscal 2008, down 15.7 percent from a year earlier. For this business year, it plans to produce 2.95 million, down 4.3 percent from fiscal 2008.

Nissan said it will pay an annual dividend of ¥11 for fiscal 2008, compared with ¥40 it paid in fiscal 2007. For the ongoing business year, it said it expects to forgo paying a full-year dividend.

Going electric

Nissan Motor Co. said Tuesday it will produce zero-emission electric vehicles powered by lithium-ion batteries at its plant in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, starting in fall 2010.

The automaker aims for an initial annual production of 50,000 units, which will later be increased ahead of the mass marketing of electric vehicles in 2012, Nissan said.

Mazda logs big loss

Mazda Motor Corp. said Tuesday its group posted a net loss of ¥71.49 billion in business 2008 against the previous year’s profit of ¥91.84 billion as the global economic downturn hammered the automaker’s performance.

In an earnings statement for the 12-month period to March 31, the automaker said its pretax balance also sank into the red with a loss of ¥18.68 billion, against a profit of ¥148.46 billion in business 2007.

The group incurred an operating loss of ¥28.38 billion, against the year-before ¥163.15 billion profit, on sales that plummeted 27.0 percent to ¥2.54 trillion.

For business 2009 to next March, the company forecast its net losses will come to ¥50 billion and pretax losses to ¥60 billion on a projected 19.9 percent sales fall to ¥2.03 trillion.

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