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Bridgestone posts improved quarterly, annual results on strong tire demand

Bridgestone Corp. said its profits rose 7.0% in the first quarter of fiscal year 2018, following 8.6% earnings growth in fiscal 2017, as sales were buoyed by a steady rise in global tire demand.

The tire and rubber products manufacturer's profit attributable to owners of the parent rose to ¥63.40 billion in the three months that ended March 31 from ¥59.24 billion in the year-ago quarter.

Diluted EPS climbed to ¥84.19 from ¥75.69.

First-quarter net sales came in at ¥859.86 billion, up 0.9% from ¥851.89 billion in the prior-year period. The tires segment posted ¥715.0 billion in net sales, up 1% from a year ago, and in line with the first-half fiscal 2018 guidance.

"Despite weaker demand in North America and Europe due to early buying in the first quarter of fiscal 2017, global tire demand continues to grow steadily," Bridgestone said. Net sales in Japan and Europe, the Middle East and Africa grew 5% and 6% year over year, respectively, offsetting a 2% decline in the Americas.

Operating profit fell to ¥99.90 billion, down 3.1% from ¥103.06 billion in the year-ago quarter, due to rising expenses in M&A and research and development. Bridgestone expects operating profit in the first half of fiscal 2018 to decrease slightly from the prior year.

For fiscal 2017, the company's profit attributable to owners of parent rose to ¥288.28 billion from ¥265.55 billion in fiscal 2016. Diluted EPS climbed to ¥375.01 from ¥338.52 last year.

Net sales increased to ¥3.643 trillion from ¥3.337 trillion in fiscal 2016 on the back of strength in the tires and diversified products segments.

Cash dividends rose to ¥150 per share in fiscal 2017 from ¥140 per share in fiscal 2016, and the company projects the payout be ¥160 per share in fiscal 2018.