TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's Nikon Corp (7731.T) raised its forecast above market expectations on record sales of cameras and solid demand for LCD steppers used to make smartphone and tablet PC screens.
Nikon, which competes with market leader Canon Inc (7751.T) and Sony Corp (6758.T) in digital cameras, said on Monday it now expects to earn an operating profit of 86 billion yen ($1.1 billion) in the year to March 2012, up 27 percent from its previous forecast and beating the consensus estimate of 74 billion yen from 19 analysts polled by ThomsonReuters Starmine.
Sales and profit on digital SLRs, interchangeable lenses and compact cameras were the highest for an April-June quarter, despite a historically strong yen biting into profits.
Like Canon, which also lifted its forecast, Nikon said it was helped by a quicker-than-expected recovery from supply chain halts after Japan's March 11 earthquake.
Nikon, which also makes lithography machines, said its April-June operating profit more than tripled to 36.9 billion yen, up from 11.3 billion yen in the same quarter last year, and said that the strong pace of camera sales would continue.
Nikon now expects sales of its digital SLRs to jump 26 percent in the year to March 2012 to 5.4 million units. It said that its compact camera sales would also grow by 9 percent to 15.5 million units and sales of interchangeable lenses would gain 20 percent to 7.6 million units.
Nikon, which also competes with chip equipment maker ASML (ASML.AS) of the Netherlands, stuck to its annual sales target of 60 new chip steppers and nudged up its LCD stepper target to 17 units from the 16 forecast in May.
Steppers and scanners are multi-million dollar tools used to map out electronic circuits on silicon wafers and liquid-crystal display panels.
ASML last month said that the industry is heading for a slowdown, but that there was no sign of uncertainty lasting beyond six months.
($1 = 77.290 Japanese Yen)
(Reporting by Mayumi Negishi; Editing by Nathan Layne)