Mazda Motor Corp <7261.T> and Mitsubishi Motors Corp <7211.T>, Japan's No.5 and No.6 automakers, forecast a more than trebling in annual operating profit on Tuesday, counting on new models to ride a sales recovery in the United States and Japan.
With Mazda bouncing back from the worst of the financial crisis, analysts are now looking at how quickly the Hiroshima-based company can turn its recent capital boost into sustainable profits.
Late last year, Mazda raised about $1 billion in a share sale to invest in hybrid and other technologies. It agreed with Toyota Motor Corp <7203.T> last month to license hybrid technology with the aim of launching a hybrid model in Japan by 2013 -- still later than most domestic rivals.
Mazda's operating profit forecast for the new business year is still just a fraction of the pre-crisis 162 billion yen posted in 2007/08.
For the year to March 2011, Mazda, held 11 percent by Ford Motor Co , expects an operating profit of 30 billion yen ($319 million), short of the average 43 billion yen forecast in a poll of 16 analysts, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
It expects an annual net profit of 5 billion yen, against a loss of 6.48 billion yen in the year ended last month.
Mazda will launch the Mazda2/Demio subcompact in North America in July, following rivals into a growing segment of customers looking for smaller, fuel-efficient cars.
Mazda's operating profit in the final January-March quarter was 20.4 billion yen, beating an average estimate of 17.7 billion yen in a poll of 16 analysts.
Earlier, Mitsubishi Motors forecast its 2010/11 operating profit at 45 billion yen, up 223 percent, counting on new models such as the RVR sport utility vehicle to drive sales volumes.
It expects a 17 percent rise in global sales volume to 1.121 million vehicles this business year.
Mitsubishi Motors has been looking to fill unused production capacity, most notably by sealing project-based supply deals with French partner PSA Peugeot Citroen .
On Tuesday, the two companies said they had agreed a deal under which Mitsubishi Motors would supply compact SUVs based on the RVR -- called ASX in Europe -- to the Peugeot and Citroen brands from early 2012. Volumes are projected to reach 50,000 units for the two brands a year, they said in a joint statement.
The partners, which last month dropped talks over a potential capital alliance, already have three joint projects, including the supply of an SUV based on the Mitsubishi Outlander, and electric cars based on the Japanese automaker's i-MiEV.
For 2009/10, Mitsubishi Motors reported an operating profit of 13.92 billion yen, short of its initial forecasts due to a drop in vehicle sales and the failure to fully meet its planned cost reduction.
Shares of Mazda are the best performing among Japanese automakers in the year to date, soaring 28 percent. Mitsubishi Motors shares have gained 1.6 percent, while Tokyo's transport sector subindex <.ITEQP.T> fell 1.8 percent in the same period.
Before the results, Mazda ended up 1.4 percent at 281 yen, while Mitsubishi closed down 0.8 percent after the results.
(Editing by Chris Gallagher)