Nissan Q4 rises, gives no guidance on quake uncertainty

Reuters

YOKOHAMA, Japan (Reuters) - Nissan Motor Co <7201.T> posted a 7.2 percent rise in quarterly operating profit on Thursday but offered no guidance for this financial year, citing uncertainties over the pace of recovery after Japan's March 11 earthquake disrupted the industry's supply chain.

Still, a resolution to the parts bottleneck could be closer than it appeared just a week ago, with rival Toyota Motor Corp <7203.T> announcing on Wednesday that production would gradually begin to normalize in June, as much as two months earlier than expected.

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Renesas Electronics Corp <6723.T>, the chipmaker at the heart of the disruption and a major supplier of microcontroller units to Nissan, also said on Wednesday that shipments would fully recover by the end of October.

January-March operating profit at Nissan, Japan's No.2 automaker, was 88.6 billion yen ($1.1 billion), better than an average forecast of 78.9 billion yen in a survey of analysts who revised their numbers after the quake, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Quarterly net profit was 30.8 billion yen, reversing from a year-ago loss. Nissan, unlike Toyota Motor Corp <7203.T> and Honda Motor Co <7267.T>, reports under Japanese accounting rules and its profits from China are included at the operating level.

For the new business year to March 2012, a consensus of 16 analysts put Nissan's operating profit at 280.0 billion yen. The forecasts ranged from 34 billion to 638 billion yen.

Until the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami that destroyed much of Japan's northeastern coast, Nissan had been on a steady growth path as CEO Carlos Ghosn pushed the automaker into fast-emerging markets such as China, India and Russia. Ghosn also had been raising Nissan's profile in the green-car field with the launch of the Leaf electric car.

Analysts have lauded Nissan for its aggressive drive to build a global network for production and parts procurement, including through its alliance with Renault SA <RENA.PA>. Following its transfer of March/Micra production to Thailand last year, Nissan is Japan's top car importer so far this year, outpacing Volkswagen AG <VOWG_p.DE>.

Like its bigger rival Toyota, Nissan has stressed its intention of keeping a certain level of production in Japan even in the face of a strong yen, high labor costs, a shrinking domestic car market, and now the myriad risks posed by natural disasters.

Without retracting its pledge to keep at least 1 million vehicles of annual production in Japan, however, Nissan has sought more ways to shift production out of Japan, including moving the Rogue crossover and Infiniti JX SUV to the United States.

Nissan's shares have held up relatively well since the quake, losing 3.9 percent as of Wednesday, compared with falls of 10.4 percent for Toyota and 7.9 percent for Honda.

Before the results were announced on Thursday, Nissan shares ended the day up 1.4 percent at 795 yen. ($1 = 81.065 Japanese Yen)

(Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim; Editing by Edmund Klamann)

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