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Nissan FY 2018 net profit lowest in 9 years, hit by weak US sales

Nissan Motor Co. Chief Executive Hiroto Saikawa speaks during a press conference at its Global Headquarters in Yokohama, on May 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

YOKOHAMA (Kyodo) -- Nissan Motor Co. said Tuesday its net profit for the fiscal year through March fell to 319.14 billion yen ($2.91 billion), the lowest in nine years, hit by weak U.S. sales and weighed by the arrest of former Chairman Carlos Ghosn nearly six months ago.

Nissan said its net profit dropped 57.3 percent from a year earlier, while operating profit decreased 44.6 percent to 318.22 billion yen on sales of 11.57 trillion yen, down 3.2 percent.

For the current fiscal year through next March, Japan's second largest automaker by vehicle sales said it expects its net profit to fall 46.7 percent to 170 billion yen and its operating profit to decline 27.7 percent to 230 billion yen, partly because of rising investment costs for the development of new models and technologies.

Sales are forecast to shrink 2.4 percent to 11.30 trillion yen, based on sales in China increasing, while demand for its cars in the North American and European markets remains stagnant.

Nissan has been struggling in the U.S. market in recent years, with CEO Hiroto Saikawa acknowledging that the automaker was overstretching to meet numerical targets, such as a reliance on incentives.

"The recovery of U.S. operations is one of our major reforms going ahead. We hope to achieve steady growth by enhancing the value of our brand," Saikawa told a press conference.

For the previous fiscal year, Nissan saw its global vehicle sales fall 4.4 percent to 5.52 million units, including a 9.3 percent decline in the United States to 1.44 million units and a 14.9 percent drop in Europe to 643,000 units.

Nissan saw sales in China increase 2.9 percent to 1.56 million units.

The automaker cut its sales target under its six-year business plan set in 2017 in a reversal of the expansionary policy pursued under Ghosn -- who has been charged with financial misconduct -- and will focus more on profitability.

Nissan lowered its sales target to 14.5 trillion yen from a goal of 16.5 trillion yen in the fiscal year through March 2023 and hopes to achieve a profit margin of 6 percent in that year compared with 8 percent set under the business plan.

"We will try to achieve more sustainable growth rather than chasing numbers as was the case under the former chairman," Saikawa said.

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