TOKYO — Nissan's fiscal fourth quarter profit jumped 46 percent on stronger sales and a favorable exchange rate that offset declines in China over a bitter territorial dispute.
Nissan Motor Co. reported Friday a January-March profit of 110 billion yen ($1.1 billion), up from 75.3 billion yen the same period the previous year. Quarterly sales gained 6 percent to 2.87 trillion yen ($28.7 billion).
That rounded out a record vehicle sales year for the Yokohama-based maker of the March compact, Infiniti luxury models and Leaf electric car at 4.9 million vehicles globally, up 1.4 percent, despite the problems in China where boycotts and anti-Japanese riots broke out last year.
President Carlos Ghosn was upbeat about growth in months ahead, targeting global 5.3 million vehicle sales for the fiscal year through March 2014, an increase of nearly 8 percent.
He noted Chinese sales had started to recover in the first three months of the year compared to the same period a year earlier.
Sales were up 5.4 percent in the U.S. to 1.14 million vehicles for the fiscal year through March 2013, but sales in China dipped 5.3 percent to 1.18 million vehicles. Sales were also down in Japan but were strong in other markets such as Thailand, Brazil and the Middle East.
"Fiscal 2012 was marked by both successes and challenges for Nissan," Ghosn said. "We ended the year with a sound balance sheet, record global sales, an improved brand and an expanded presence in critical growth markets."
He welcomed the "Abenomics" policies of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that are centered on an aggressive flooding of monetary markets with cash, a move that has buoyed the dollar, a big plus for Japanese exporters like Nissan.
But Ghosn, who has long criticized what he called an overvalued yen, characterized the dollar at 100 yen, reached for the first time in four years in Friday's Tokyo trading, as "neutral."
Nissan gained 30 billion yen ($300 million) in operating profit for the latest fiscal year over a favorable exchange rate.
The dollar has gained about 20 percent since Abe took office.
Nissan is projecting a 420 billion yen ($4.2 billion) profit for the fiscal year through March 2014, on 11.2 trillion yen ($112 billion) sales.
Nissan reported a 342 billion yen ($3.42 billion) profit for the fiscal year ended March 31, up 0.3 percent on year. Annual sales edged up 2.3 percent to 9.6 trillion yen ($96 billion).
Some analysts say that, with the cheaper yen, Japanese automakers will be better able to compete in overseas markets against powerful rivals like Hyundai of South Korea that have been grabbing market share away from them.
A falling yen not only helps raise the value of overseas profit of the Japanese by billions of yen, but it also tends to bring down product prices. Because Japanese autos tend to be of relatively good quality, they will appear as bargains, once prices come down.
Other Japanese automakers, such as Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. also reaped benefits from the cheaper yen for their latest earnings.
Toyota's quarterly profit more than doubled to 313.9 billion yen ($3.2 billion), while Honda's quarterly profit rose nearly 6 percent to 75.7 billion yen ($765 million).
For every yen the dollar gains, Toyota adds 40 billion yen ($400 million) to its annual operating profit, while Honda gains 14 billion yen ($140 million).
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