Nissan beats profit estimates on US boost, eyes China recovery

YOKOHAMA (REUTERS) - Nissan Motor beat expectations with a 14 per cent rise in quarterly net profit on Thursday, bolstered by a jump in sales in the United States. The company expressed confidence it was on track for a recovery in its key Chinese market.

Japan's second-biggest automaker by sales volume said net profit had increased to 82.02 billion yen (S$1.03 billion) in its April-June first quarter.

"Positive signs of improving sales volume in China, as well as expected contributions from the full ramp-up of US operations, should enhance Nissan's performance in the coming quarters of fiscal year 2013 - in line with the company's previously announced guidance," the company said in a statement.

Japanese carmakers have suffered a plunge in China sales since a diplomatic row between Tokyo and Beijing last September, and Nissan in particular has been hit hard. China was Nissan's biggest market for the last four years and accounted for about a quarter of its sales volume last year, making Nissan the most reliant on that country among Japan's carmakers.

Nissan's China sales slid 15 per cent from a year earlier to 284,000 vehicles in the January-March period, with its market share slipping 2 percentage points to 5.5 per cent. Because of a difference in the Chinese and Japanese financial years, Nissan's January-March sales in China are reflected in its April-June results.

But the drop in its China sales narrowed markedly in the latest quarter. Sales fell 1 per cent year-on-year in the April-June period to 308,000 vehicles, giving it a market share of 6.2 per cent, down 0.7 percentage point. Nissan stuck to its view that its China business would return to pre-diplomatic row levels in the fourth quarter.

Corporate vice-president Joji Tagawa said Nissan expects its annual market share in China to rise to 6.5 per cent. He declined to comment on the future of China's macroeconomy or the impact on Nissan.