Originally created 04/27/04

Nissan reports rising profits on strong global sales



TOKYO -- Nissan Motor Co. reported a 1.7 percent increase in profit Monday for its fiscal year on strong sales around the world, prompting the automaker to forecast even stronger results in the coming year.

Tokyo-based Nissan, on a comeback trail under a five-year alliance with Renault SA, posted a group net profit of 503.7 billion yen ($4.6 billion) for the 12 months ended March 31, up from 495 billion yen the previous year. Sales climbed 8.8 percent to 7.4 trillion yen ($68 billion) from 6.8 trillion yen a year ago.

Nissan president and chief executive Carlos Ghosn said the results were a record for the company and exceeded internal forecasts. Sales improved in North America, Japan, Europe and China and offset losses from an unfavorable exchange rate between the yen and the U.S. dollar.

Global vehicles sales for Japan's No. 2 automaker totaled 3.06 million, up 10 percent from 2.77 million in fiscal 2002. It was the first time Nissan vehicle sales surpassed the 3 million mark in 13 years.

Vehicles sales surged nearly 18 percent in the United States, where a new plant in Canton, Miss., began to launch several models. Sales in Japan increased 2.6 percent on robust demand for the March and Cube compact cars, and sales in Europe rose 14.4 percent.

Ghosn unveiled a new three-year plan through March 2008 that includes targets to reach annual global sales of 4.2 million vehicles and maintain a 20 percent return on invested capital.

As part of that plan, Nissan will begin to sell its Infiniti luxury models around the world over the next three years, starting with South Korea next year, but eventually in Japan, China, Russia and other countries, Ghosn said. Infiniti is now mainly sold in North America.

Nissan's global market share, which stood at 4.7 percent in 2001, reached 5.3 percent in 2003 and is projected to reach 7 percent in 2007, Ghosn said.

For the fiscal year ending March 31, 2005, Nissan is forecasting net profit of 510 billion yen ($4.7 billion) on 8.18 trillion yen ($75 billion) sales. Nissan plans to sell more than a million vehicles in the United States in fiscal 2004, up 16.8 percent from fiscal 2003.

Ghosn, who is set to become Renault chief executive next year as well, said he remains committed as chief executive of Nissan. Renault owns 44.3 percent of Nissan.

"I will remain fully accountable for delivering the commitments made today," he said.

Nissan shares closed up 1.43 percent at 1,278 yen ($11.70) Monday on the Tokyo Stock Exchange shortly before its earnings were announced.