* Japan quake, Thai floods hit Honda harder than others
* Q3 op profit seen down 35 pct y/y - Reuters poll
* Investors eager for Honda to renew earnings guidance
* Consensus sees FY profit down 50%, better than previous
* Shares outperform as investors focus on recovery ahead
By Chang-Ran Kim
TOKYO, Jan 31 Honda Motor Co is
expected to report a double-digit slide in quarterly operating
profit on Tuesday and forecast a still larger drop for the full
year, as natural disasters in Japan and Thailand hit
it harder than rivals.
Japan's No.3 automaker was the slowest to recover from
supply-chain disruptions after the earthquake and tsunami in
March, while it was alone in having a car factory inundated by
the historic floods in Thailand, Southeast Asia's export hub.
That is expected to push Honda's October-December operating
profit down 35 percent to 81 billion yen ($1.06 billion),
according to a poll of nine analysts by Reuters.
Honda's announcement is being closely watched after the
company withdrew its guidance in October citing uncertainty over
when production could resume in Thailand. Honda is the first
Japanese automaker to report third-quarter earnings,
and is also expected to provide an update on Thai
production on Tuesday.
In 2011, Honda's global output dropped by a fifth to 2.909
million cars, slipping below 3 million for the first time in
eight years. All other Japanese automakers, except Nissan Motor
Co, built fewer cars also, but the falls were much
smaller than at Honda.
For the year to March 31, 2012, forecasts from 24 analysts
polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S put Honda's annual operating
profit at 283 billion yen, down 50 percent from 2010-11 when it
was hit by the yen's rise against the dollar and euro.
The consensus forecast is slightly higher than the 270
billion yen Honda projected in August.
With production steadily recovering in the final months of
2011, investors have turned their attention to an anticipated
jump in sales as Honda restocks its depleted inventory.
So far this year, its shares are the best performer among
Japanese automakers, rising 14.2 percent as of Monday. Tokyo's
auto sector index has gained 8.9 percent.
Still, concern has lingered over whether Honda might be
losing its edge after a new version of its top-selling Civic was
heavily criticised for its styling and interior in the United
States, its biggest market, last year.
Competition in the United States is set to heat up this year
as resurgent local giants Ford Motor Co and General Motors
Co and South Korea's fast-rising Hyundai Motor Co
flex their muscles in the sedan segment previously
dominated by Honda and Toyota Motor Corp.
While acknowledging the criticisms of the revamped Civic,
Honda Chief Executive Takanobu Ito stressed this month that the
car had topped the country's compact sedan segment in the latest
quarter, outselling Toyota's Corolla.
Honda is targeting a 25 percent jump in its U.S. sales this
calendar year. To this aim, it is shoring up its struggling
Acura premium brand.
Honda is scheduled to announce its results at 3 p.m. (0600
GMT) in Tokyo.
Domestic rivals Toyota and Nissan are scheduled to announce
third-quarter earnings on Feb. 7 and 8, respectively.