Nissan Motor has posted a fourth quarter net profit of JPY30.8bn, compared with a net loss of JPY11.6bn a year earlier. Sales rose 10% in the quarter to JPY2.351 trillion from JPY2.138 trillion while operating profit was up 7.2% to JPY88.6bn from JPY82.7bn.

This was in stark contrast to Toyota which yesterday said fourth quarter operating profit fell 52% to JPY46.1bn (US$570m), compared with an average estimate of JPY94.6bn yen by 17 analysts who revised their numbers after the 11 March earthquake and tsunami

The quarterly net income results at Nissan beat a JPY24.39bn mean profit forecast by five analysts polled by Thomson Reuters and was also better than Honda Motor's reported 38% drop in net profit for the last quarter of fiscal 2010/11 ended 31 March.

"Nissan wasn't affected by the earthquake as badly as Toyota and Honda were," Koji Endo, an analst at Advanced Research Japan, told the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

The WSJ said Nissan, unlike Toyota, which makes about half the cars it sells globally in Japan, produces only a quarter of its global sales volume in Japan. Its more globally diverse production has given it an advantage over its chief rival because the steady appreciation of the Japanese yen against the dollar over the past year has made it difficult to profitably export vehicles made in Japan.

Nissan shifted production of its March/Micra compact model from Japan to Thailand [and India] this year and has announced plans to move production of its compact Rogue model out of Japan and produce a new upscale Infiniti JX model in the US, the WSJ noted. But despite the persistently strong yen, Ghosn said his company would continue to maintain its current production level of 1m vehicles per year in Japan.

For the full fiscal year, Nissan Motor booked operating profit of JPY537.5bn (US$6.27bn, euro 4.75bn), ordinary profit of JPY537.8bn and net income of JPY319.2bn on sales of JPY8.7731 trillion, it said in a statement.

In February it had forecast sales of JPY8.8 trillion, operating profit of JPY535bn and net income of JPY315bn.

Nissan said global sales reached a record-high level - in a year when total industry volume was up 12.6% - from 64.5m units in fiscal 2009 to 72.6m in fiscal 2010 - its global sales increased 19.1% as vehicle volume grew from 3.515m to 4.185m units. For the year, overall global market share stood at 5.8%.

"Fiscal 2010 was a record year for Nissan in terms of sales and growth," said president and CEO Carlos Ghosn. "Our recovery efforts were effective, and new models launched in the second half - including the all-electric Leaf - boosted our brand and sales power in the world's major markets."

Sales in China, Nissan's largest single market worldwide, reached a record 1,024,000 units, a 35.5% increase. In North America, sales were 1,245,000 units, up 16.6%; United States sales were 966,000 units, up 17.3%. Across Europe, sales were 607,000 units, up 19.3%. In Japan, sales were 600,000 units, down 4.7%. Other markets totaled 709,000 units, up 28.2%.

"The March 11 earthquake in Japan significantly disrupted our operations but Nissan is once again proving its resilience in the face of adversity," added Ghosn. "We have repeatedly demonstrated our experience in recovering short-term performance while protecting strategic, long-term priorities. Although the effects of this tragedy continue to affect our operations, we are poised for a robust recovery."

"Our sales in 2011, we think today from everything we know, are going to be better than in 2010," Ghosn said at the press conference at the company's headquarters in Yokohama. "We are not in the business of growing our sales and deteriorating our profits," he added.

Chief financial officer Joseph Peter told the WSJ Nissan's quake-related losses amounted to JPY39.6bn ($489m) in the quarter ended 31 March, about half of which was from damage to plants and lost inventory and the other half from overhead while its plants were idled.

While Ghosn said Nissan was resigned to the fact that it would forfeit some sales due to low inventories, he said the company would seek to prevent market share erosion by diverting supply to key markets, such as the U.S. and China. "What we've trying to do is protect some selective markets," he said. "The repercussions from the shortfall are not going to be equal" among the markets in which Nissan operates.

Because the quake struck at the tail end of the latest quarter, the brunt of the damage from the production suspension and cuts will be sustained in the current quarter and beyond, the WSJ noted.

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