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Nissan Posts Steepest Quarterly Profit Gain In Three Years

Japan’s Nissan Motor Co (7201.T) beat analyst estimates by reporting its steepest quarterly profit gain in three years as a weaker yen made its export business more profitable and as sales improved in China, its biggest market. Nissan Motor's Teana sedan

Nissan, like compatriots Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) and Honda Motor Co (7267.T), has been clawing back sales in the world’s largest auto market since a Sino-Japanese territorial dispute led to Chinese consumers boycotting Japanese goods in September 2012.

Sales began to normalize in 2013, with Nissan and local partner Dongfeng Motor Group Co Ltd (0489.HK) selling 17.2 percent more vehicles than in the year earlier.

That helped Nissan book October-December net profit of 84.3 billion yen ($824.73 million) compared with a mean 58.8 billion yen estimate of six analysts in a Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S poll.

The figure was 56.8 percent more than in the same period a year earlier making it the steepest gain since the 78.0 percent of October-December 2010, show data from Thomson Reuters Eikon.

Nissan, Japan’s second-biggest automaker by global sales volume after Toyota, kept its profit outlook for the full year ending March at 355 billion yen compared with analysts’ 364.2 billion yen estimate.

The maker of Infiniti and Datsun brands cut its outlook three months ago by nearly 20 percent.

“Based on its strong product line-up and current market demand, Nissan is maintaining its full-year earnings guidance,” Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn said in a statement.

Shares of Nissan ended Monday 0.1 percent higher before the earnings release compared with a 1.8 percent rise in the benchmark index .N225.

The automaker also said operating profit margin for the nine months to December was 4.1 percent, which compared with 6.6 percent at Honda Motor Co (7267.T) and 9.7 percent at Toyota.

Nissan aims to boost its operating profit margin as well as global market share to 8 percent each by the year ending March 2017. Recent hurdles include product recalls and sales slowdown in markets such as Thailand and Russia.

The automaker sold a record 5.1 million vehicles globally last year, up 3.3 percent from a year earlier thanks in part to the recovery in China and weaker yen.

The yen has fallen nearly 9 percent against the U.S. dollar since the beginning of the financial year in March 2013.

Nissan, French automaker Renault SA (RENA.PA) – which owns 43.4 percent of Nissan – and Renault’s Russian subsidiary AvtoVAZ jointly sold 8.26 million vehicles in 2013, up 2.1 percent on year. ($1 = 102.2150 Japanese yen)

(Reporting by Yoko Kubota; Editing by Christopher Cushing)

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