Maruti Suzuki India, 54.2% owned by Suzuki Motor, on Friday reported an unexpected 18.5% drop in quarterly net profit, missing its forecast, due to higher raw material costs and inventory. Full year net profit dipped 29.6%.

The automaker said net profit fell to INR2.43bn (US$48.8m) in the fiscal fourth quarter ended 31 March from INR2.98bn a year earlier. That trailed a forecast of nearly INR4bn in a Reuters poll of 16 brokerages.

In a statement, Maruti Suzuki said 2008-09 fiscal year pre-tax income (income from operations plus other income) grew 14.28% to INR214.5bn, a compay record, due largely to strong sales of its Swift hatchback and sedan Swift lines.

But net profit slipped 29.6% to INR12.2bn while EBDITA was off 22% year on year to INR243bn.

"During the year, commodity prices went up sharply and remained high for most part of the year. Forex fluctuations were also adverse and impacted the bottom line significantly," Maruti said, adding that commodity prices eased in recent months.

With regard to foreign currency exposure, the company's exports in 2009-10 are expected to be higher and cover its imports, Maruti added.

In fiscal 2008-09 Maruti Suzuki sold 792,167 vehicles, the highest in its 25 year history.

Sales included exports up 32% to 70,023 units led by the new A-star compact launched in Europe during the year as the Suzuki Alto. The export tally included around 19,000 A-stars shipped to Europe including the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Denmark and Switzerland.