TOKYO -- Top Japanese tire maker Bridgestone Corp. said on Friday brisk exports helped its net profit surge 161 percent last year, confirming a comeback from a recall scandal that nearly destroyed its U.S. Firestone brand.
The results offered further evidence that Bridgestone -- battered for two years by the fallout from deadly accidents involving its U.S. unit's tires -- had largely put the Firestone mess behind it after settling more than 700 related cases.
But while the tire giant looked set to build on its bounceback with a boost in capital spending for 2003, it also forecast a drop in sales and recurring profit for this year amid rising rubber prices and a weakening dollar.
For 2002, Bridgestone rode strong exports to the United States and Asia to a consolidated net profit of 45.38 billion yen ($383.4 million), or 51.97 yen per share, better than the 40 billion yen forecast by the company in December.
Operating profit jumped 56 percent to 183.86 billion yen with revenue rising 5.3 percent year-on-year to 2.248 trillion yen, as Bridgestone also benefitted from a weaker-than-expected yen and the aggressive restructuring of its U.S. operations.
"We have achieved our crucial goal of returning our U.S. operations to the black," president Shigeo Watanabe said. "And from now we are working to progress with our efforts to boost growth and profits in Europe and ensure that the U.S., Europe, Japan, and Asia all make strong contributions."
Anticipating further demand this year for larger tires in the United States and Europe and commodity-grade tires in Asia, the tire giant said it would boost capital spending by 63 percent to 190 billion yen in 2003, with much of that going toward expanding global production capacity in Europe and Asia.