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Healthy sales, cheap yen help push Nissan quarterly profit up with North America, China growth

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TOKYO - Nissan's quarterly profit rose nearly 37 per cent, helped by a favourable exchange rate and healthy sales in North America and China.

Nissan Motor Co. reported Monday a better-than-expected net profit of 112 billion yen ($1.1 billion) for the April-June first fiscal quarter, up from 82 billion yen a year earlier. Analysts surveyed by FactSet had forecast a quarterly profit of 85 billion yen ($835 million). Quarterly sales jumped 10 per cent to 2.466 trillion yen ($24.2 billion).

Nissan's vehicle sales grew in the robust North American market, on solid demand for the Rogue crossover and the Altima sedan, offsetting shaky Japan, where a rise in the consumption tax dampened sales overall.

"Nissan continued to make progress in the first three months of the fiscal year as encouraging demand for new products, benefits from recent plant investments, and improving market conditions in North America, China and Europe combined to lift both revenues and profits," said Carlos Ghosn, president and chief executive officer.

Yokohama-based Nissan kept its full year forecasts unchanged at a 405 billion yen ($4 billion) net income and 10.79 trillion yen ($106 billion) sales. The profit figure would represent a 4 per cent increase from the previous year and the sales figure a 3 per cent increase.

Nissan sold 1.24 million vehicles globally during the first quarter, a 6 per cent rise from the previous year.

Nissan has stepped up its global expansion, opening new plants in Brazil, Indonesia and Thailand and other emerging markets where it sees strong growth.

But Nissan, which makes the Infiniti luxury model, March subcompact and Leaf electric car, is also doing will in the U.S., a developed market.

Its U.S. sales volume grew 14 per cent from the previous year, and Nissan's market share in the U.S. edged up by 0.5 points to 7.9 per cent.

Nissan is also holding up in Europe, boosting vehicle sales in Russia by 31 per cent.

The automaker sold fewer vehicles in Japan, where demand waned following an April 1 sales tax hike. Its market share increased by 0.1 point to 11.5 per cent.

The cheap yen continued to boost Nissan's earnings. Japanese exporters get a perk because it lifts the value of overseas earnings. Nissan said the company gained several billion yen in operating profit from the currency rate but declined to give a specific number.

Nissan said its green image was enhanced by the accolades for its zero-emission Leaf electric vehicle.

Nissan has now sold 124,000 Leaf vehicles, still a niche market but significant as a plus for its image because of the concerns about global warming and the environment, according to the automaker.

Nissan boasts one of the most successful alliances in the auto industry with Renault SA, and sharing common basic parts on which the products are manufactured has been a key part of its strategy, helping slash costs.

Honda Motor Co. reports earnings Tuesday. Toyota Motor Corp. reports Aug. 5.

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Follow Yuri Kageyama on Twitter at twitter.com/yurikageyama

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