Maruti Q1 net falls 23 pct, 4th straight qtrly profit drop

by Jul 29, 2012

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Maruti Suzuki (MRTI.NS), India's biggest carmaker, lagged estimates with a 23 percent fall in fiscal first-quarter profit, its fourth consecutive quarterly profit decline, as a weak local rupee currency pushed up costs.

Maruti, 54.2 percent owned by Japan's Suzuki Motor Corp (7269.T), said net profit fell to 4.24 billion rupees for the three months to June from 5.49 billion rupees a year earlier.

"Adverse currency movements, notably the Yen-rupee exchange rate, impacted profits negatively," Maruti, which imports many components from Japan, said in a statement.

Net sales for the quarter rose 27.5 percent to 105.3 billion rupees from a year earlier.

Analysts expected a net profit of 4.85 billion rupees for the quarter on revenue of 101.10 billion rupees, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Maruti faces months of supply woes and a slump in market share and sales as a lockout at a key factory enters its second week after violent clashes between workers and management left one company official dead.

The shutdown at the Manesar plant threatens a replay of a dismal 2011 when labour unrest battered the company's sales, market share and profit.

The results released on Saturday are for the three months to end-June, and as such are not affected by the shutdown.

The latest labour problems add to Maruti's woes at a time when it is fighting an industry-wide slowdown in sales as the Indian economy grows at its slowest pace in nine years, while a weakening rupee has made it even worse for an industry that depends on imports for key raw materials.

Maruti shares, valued at $5.8 billion, are down more than 9 percent since it announced the shutdown of the Manesar plant on July 18. The stock closed 0.4 percent higher on Friday, underperforming a 1.1 percent rise in the broader market.

(Reporting by Devidutta Tripathy; editing by James Jukwey)

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