YOKOHAMA, Japan Nissan Motor Co (7201.T) posted on Friday a one-third jump in quarterly profit and projected a 28 percent rise in the year ahead driven by brisk sales momentum in most major markets and the launch of 10 new models around the world.
Nissan has outshone domestic rivals Honda Motor Co (7267.T) and Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) in the past year as Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn has pushed aggressively into fast-growing markets such as China and Russia.
January-March operating profit at Japan's No.2 automaker rose 33 percent to 118.1 billion yen ($1.48 billion), against an average estimate of 120 billion yen from 20 analysts polled in the past 90 days by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Net profit for Nissan's fourth-quarter grew 145 percent to 75.3 billion yen.
For the year to next March, Nissan projected an operating profit of 700 billion yen - the best since the global financial crisis - and net profit of 400 billion yen. Consensus forecasts from 26 analysts put the profit at 710.5 billion yen.
Nissan, valued at $44 billion and 43.4 percent-held by France's Renault SA (RENA.PA), has also recovered its supply chain faster than its competitors after last year's earthquake and tsunami and widespread flooding in Thailand. It has also been more ruthless in replacing more of the parts for the cars it makes in Japan with imported components, taking advantage of the strong yen.
The automaker's global sales grew 16 percent to a record 4.845 million vehicles in the business year ended March, handily beating the total industry's 4.2 percent rise.
Ghosn told a news conference Nissan expects to beat the industry again this business year with a sales increase of 10.4 percent to another record, of 5.35 million vehicles.
"As we start the new year, Nissan stands as a company re-tooled and ready to accelerate its growth," he said.
"Together with a stronger brand, investments in products, technologies and global capacity, we have the tools to achieve Nissan Power 88 and beyond," he said, referring to Nissan's six-year growth plan that aims to achieve an 8 percent global market share and 8 percent operating profit margin by March 2017.
Nissan is planning to launch 10 all-new models in the year ahead, including the high-volume Altima sedan and Pathfinder sports utility.
For the year to end-March, Nissan managed a slight rise, of 1.6 percent, in operating profit to 545.84 billion yen, compared with a 60 percent decline at Honda and 24 percent drop at Toyota.
Ghosn repeated Nissan's aim of becoming the top Asian automaker in China, Brazil and Russia, markets in which all global automakers are aiming to grab a bigger pie.
In Russia, Renault-Nissan last week signed a long-awaited deal that would give them effective control of Lada maker AvtoVAZ (AVAZ.MM), creating a group that would rank third in global sales behind General Motors Co (GM.N) and Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE), and ahead of Toyota.
But Ghosn stressed that BRICs countries were not the only fast-growing markets, adding that automakers would be at risk if they did not pay attention to newly emerging markets such as Indonesia, Vietnam and pockets of Africa and the Middle East.
Nissan shares are up more than 12 percent year-to-date, about half the increase Toyota has seen, and lagging Honda's 16 percent gain.
Nissan ended up 3.3 percent in Tokyo before the results were announced.
(Editing by Ian Geoghegan and Jacqueline Wong)