Cost cutting compensated for falling demand and helped struggling truck maker Nissan Diesel raise net profit by 0.9% to 610 million yen ($US4.9 million) for its latest financial year.

Earnings per share increased slightly from 2.34 to 2.36 yen. Sales fell 8% to 371 billion yen and operating profit dropped 8.8 percent to 11.53 billion but Nissan Diesel claimed an industry-best operating margin of 3.1%.

The company said Japanese truck demand slumped 2.3% in the second half of 2001 while sales of models able to carry four tonnes-plus dropped to 75,431 units – under half of 1990s peak volume.

Nissan Diesel is forecasting four-tonne-plus segment sales of only 76,000 vehicles this financial year as its total sales in Japan rise 3.3% to 169,000 units.

It predicts sales in foreign market will increase 12% to 109,000 but this will be partly offset by accounting changes in the US where 12 months#; sales will be included instead of nine last financial year.

Nissan Diesel plans to boost operating profit to 13 billion yen, a rise of 13% while net profit reaches one billion yen from 380 billion of sales.