Bridgestone group net profit in 2006 plunged 52.9% year on year to 85.1bn yen – the first fall in five years – due mainly to rises in natural rubber and other tyre material costs.

Kyodo News reported that consolidated sales for the year to 31 December 2006 hit a record 2.99 trillion yen, up 11.1% over the previous business year.

Bridgestone attributed the record to brisk sales of its tyres in the United States, where stiffer exhaust emission regulations drove greater demand for trucks and bus tyres.

Still, the company saw its profitability shrink because it could not transfer the higher material costs to retail prices, Bridgestone told the news agency.

Bridgestone expects to post record sales of 3.08 trillion yen in the current business year to 31 December 2007, with its group net profit estimated at 90bn yen, the report added.