UPDATE 1-Honda lifts forecasts after strong sales drive Q1


* Q1 op profit 234.4 bln yen vs consensus 138.3 bln yen

* Lifts FY op profit forecast to 450 bln yen from 400 bln yen

* April-June op profit best in 2-½ years

* Q1 operating margin 9.9 pct vs 4.2 pct in previous qtr

* Shares end down 0.3 pct before results (Adds details, background, Kia results)

By Chang-Ran Kim, Asia autos correspondent

TOKYO, July 30 (Reuters) - Honda Motor Co posted its best quarterly operating profit in 2-½ years on Friday on brisk sales in the United States, China, and other Asian markets, and raised its forecasts despite a sharp rise in the yen.

Japan's No.2 automaker joined Nissan Motor Co , Hyundai Motor Co and Kia Motors Corp in reporting strong results for April-June, but like the rest of the industry, faces concerns over a slowdown in demand in the United States, China and Europe.

A further strengthening in the yen is also clouding the outlook for Japanese automakers, with the dollar hitting an eight-month low below 86.27 yen on Friday.

In the United States, Honda's most crucial market, its car sales have lagged overall growth because much of the recent rise in demand there has been in the less profitable fleet business where Honda is under-represented.

For the year to March 31, 2011, Honda now expects an operating profit of 450 billion yen ($5.2 billion), higher than its previous forecast of 400 billion yen. A survey of 19 analysts by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S forecasts profit of 484 billion yen.

The maker of the Accord and Civic cars lifted its net profit forecast to 455 billion yen from 340 billion yen.

For the April-June quarter, Honda reported an operating profit of 234.4 billion yen, up from 25.2 billion yen a year ago and easily beating the average 138.3 billion estimated by six analysts surveyed by Reuters.

Its operating profit margin improved to 9.9 percent from 4.2 percent in the previous quarter, also thanks to its motorcycle business.

First-quarter net profit, which includes earnings made in China, was 272.5 billion yen, up from 7.6 billion yen last year.

In China, Honda has grabbed headlines in recent months due to production stoppages at its local factories as labour disputes at suppliers -- mostly affiliates -- disrupted the flow of components since late May.

Honda has said it would make up for lost production, which it estimated at less than 20,000 units, and has made no changes to its annual sales plans for China. The impact on production from the strikes would appear in the July-September term since earnings made in China are booked in the following quarter.

On Thursday, Nissan, which looks set to overtake Honda as Japan's second-biggest car maker this year, reported its strongest quarterly operating profit in more than two years as it outsold the industry in most markets.

Nissan's operating margin more than doubled to 8.2 percent from 3.9 percent in the previous quarter, but the positive results failed to lift its share price on Friday in the absence of a forecast revision and the dollar's fall.

Toyota Motor Corp is also set to report a big improvement in the latest quarter on Aug. 4, although many analysts expect no change in full-year guidance due to uncertainty over global demand, pressure from rising raw materials prices and a stronger yen.

Earlier on Friday, Hyundai affiliate Kia reported a 61 percent jump in second-quarter net profit thanks to brisk sales of the Sorento SUV and Forte compact car. [ID:nTOE66R01B]

Shares of Honda have fallen 13 percent in the year to date, slightly better than Tokyo's transport sector subindex , which lost 14 percent in the same period.

Honda's shares closed down 0.3 percent before the results were announced on Friday, outperforming a 1.0 percent fall in the transport sector. (Additional reporting by Cheon Jong-woo in SEOUL; Editing by Lincoln Feast)



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