Honda slashes profit outlook on disasters, sees rebound

Tue Jan 31, 2012 6:39am EST
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By Chang-Ran Kim

TOKYO (Reuters) - Honda Motor Co slashed its annual profit guidance to the lowest level in three years as it counted the cost of natural disasters in Japan and Thailand and a strong yen. But it forecast a healthy rebound next year.

Japan's No.3 automaker was the slowest to recover from the supply chain disruptions after the Japanese earthquake and tsunami and it was the only carmaker whose factory was inundated by historic floods in Thailand, Southeast Asia's export hub.

Honda cut its expectations for operating profit for the business year to March 31 by a quarter to 200 billion yen ($2.6 billion), below the average forecast of 24 analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S of 283 billion yen. It marks a drop of 65 percent compared with year-earlier profits.

"Any way you look at it, this has been an extremely tough year for Honda," Chief Financial Officer Fumihiko Ike told a news conference on Tuesday after Honda released its results.

"We consider this to be a year of unparalleled, abnormal difficulty, and even though the global economy may not be looking good now, we'll see a big leap next year and beyond," he said.

In the face of the disasters, the firm's global output dropped last year by a fifth to 2.91 million cars, slipping below 3 million for the first time in eight years. Production at other Japanese automakers, except for Nissan Motor Co, also fell but not so severely.

Honda had withdrawn its previous operating profit forecast three months ago because of uncertainty over when production could restart following the floods. The dollar's estimated 8-yen fall to 78 yen also hurt profits.

Honda, whose bottom line has been propped up by its leading motorcycle business and a strong finance arm, expects net profit to fall 60 percent to 215 billion yen in the financial year. The figure, reported under U.S. accounting standards, includes earnings made in China.   Continued...

<p>The Honda Accord plug in hybrid concept car is displayed on the final press preview day for the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, January 10, 2012. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook</p>