UPDATE 2-Astra Q1 net hit by lower forex gains


(Adds analyst comments, details)

JAKARTA, April 30 (Reuters) - Dominant Indonesian car maker PT Astra International reported a lower quarterly net profit on Wednesday because of much lower foreign exchange gains.

But analysts welcomed operating profit growth of 28 percent and said continued firm economic growth and new car launches would keep sales growing later this year.

The auto giant, with annual revenue equivalent to two percent of Indonesia's GDP, posted a net profit of 842.31 billion rupiah ($97.21 million) in the first quarter, down 24 percent from 1.11 trillion rupiah in the same quarter last year.

Astra recorded foreign exchange gains of 27.68 billion rupiah in the first quarter. This compared with 540.60 billion rupiah in the same quarter a year go, when a sharp rise in the rupiah reduced the cost of servicing Astra's dollar-denominated debts.

Despite the lower net profit, Astra's revenue was higher at 7.67 trillion rupiah, compared with 7.25 trillion a year earlier, and its operating profit rose 28 percent to 846.55 billion rupiah from 661.98 billion.

"Relatively, we can say that the results were pretty good. It is important to review its top-line figures, and an increase by more than 20 percent in its operating profit is a satisfactory result," said Denny Lesmana, an analyst from Samuel Sekuritas Indonesia.

Lesmana said the outlook of the company remained promising as Astra planned to launch new models this year and it was also targeting an increase in its market share. He saw the company expanding its sales by three to five percent this year.

Last week Astra's CEO told Reuters in an interview that Indonesia's economic growth could be higher this year than the then official forecast of four percent and that that could help the core auto business of Astra.

Domestic car sales are often seen as a key barometer of Indonesia's consumer spending power, which has driven the economy in recent years.

Astra's share price closed at 3,025 rupiah, down 0.82 percent, while the broad Jakarta share market index rose 1.5 percent. Singapore's Cycle and Carriage Ltd holds a 35.05 percent stake in Astra. ($1=8,665 rupiah)



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