Bridgestone operating profit falls 42% in 2009

Bridgestone operating profit falls 42% in 2009

Tokyo: Bridgestone Corp, Japan’s largest tyremaker, reported a 42% drop in 2009 operating profit, hurt by a downturn in the global car market and the strength of the yen, but it forecast an earnings recovery this year.

The company, which competes with France’s Michelin, booked an operating profit of ¥75.7 billion ($824.8 million) for 2009, down from ¥131.6 billion the year before. That compared with an average estimate of ¥67.79 billion in a poll of 12 analysts.

For this year, Bridgestone forecast an operating profit of ¥94 billion, undershooting analysts’ average forecast for a ¥123.7 billion profit.

Global car sales have been picking up in recent months thanks to government stimulus measures worldwide, but automakers including Nissan Motor Co have warned this recovery may slow as such incentives peter out.

Michelin last week reported a weaker-than-expected net profit for 2009 and said rising rubber prices and an unclear market outlook were making the company “extremely vigilant."

Shares of Bridgestone have risen 4.5% in the past three months, underperforming the Nikkei stock average’s 6.8% gain.