Subaru, Suzuki feel pinch of U.S. incentives wars

Solid half
Results for fiscal first half ended Sept. 30. Dollars in millions
Fuji Heavy (Subaru)
  2001 % change 2000
Revenue $5,526.9 +5.4 $5,243.8
Operating profit $367.0 +32.1 $277.8
Net income/(loss) $133.3 - ($46.1)
Unit sales 264,000 -2.9 272,000
Suzuki
  2001 % change 2000
Revenue $7,295.1 +6.4 $6,855.5
Operating profit $261.7 +18.5 $220.9
Net income $93.2 +2.3 $91.1
Unit sales 438,000 +0.5 436,000
Notes: Results are consolidated, meaning they include most subsidiaries. Results converted at rate of $1=119.4, the rate prevailing on the last business day of the fiscal first half.

TOKYO - Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., maker of Subaru cars, said its earnings in North America slipped 1.1 percent for the fiscal first half due to higher spending on sales incentives.

Fuji's North American operating profit dipped to 10.407 billion - $87.2 million at current exchange rates - for the six months through September from $88.2 million a year earlier.

Fuji, owned 20 percent by General Motors, said it has spent about $800 per car in incentives in recent months to prop up sales. North American sales in the first half rose about 5.4 percent to approximately 98,000 units from about 93,000 a year earlier, mainly because of the addition of a turbo version of the Impreza to the lineup in March.

Revenue rose 24.5 percent to $2.24 billion.

For the full year ending March 31, Fuji expects North American sales to grow to 206,000 units from 187,000 in the previous year, partly supported by continued incentives.

On a worldwide basis, Fuji returned to the black with a consolidated net profit of $133.31 million vs. a loss of $46.14 million a year earlier. Revenue rose 5.4 percent to $5.53 billion.

The year-earlier loss reflected an extraordinary charge related to Fuji's pension plan.

For the full year, Fuji said it expects net income to rise 32.6 percent from a year earlier to $251.26 million on projected sales of $11.47 billion, up 4.4 percent. Earlier, it had forecast $335 million in net income and $11.73 billion in sales.

Separately, Suzuki Motor Corp. also said its earnings came under pressure from incentives on its vehicles in the U.S. and European markets, which offset cost cuts and the benefits of a weaker yen against the dollar. A weaker yen results in more yen revenue and profits for every dollar received from a sale overseas.

Consolidated operating profits at Suzuki, owned 20 percent by General Motors, from its auto business dropped 11.8 percent in the first half from a year earlier to 16.25 billion yen, or $136.10 million. Auto sales rose 3.4 percent to $5.51 billion.

But worldwide net income rose 2.3 percent to $93.22 million, buoyed by strong performance by motorcycle operations, on a 6.4 percent increase in revenue, to $7.30 billion.

For the full year ending March 31, Suzuki expects net income to rise 3.7 percent to $175.88 million on expected sales of $13.48 billion, little changed.

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