Honda Motor Co posted a 65 percent slide in quarterly operating profit on Tuesday and forecast the same drop for the full year, when 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.

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 declines were much smaller than at Honda.

For the business year to March 31, 2012, Honda said it expects operating profit of 200 billion yen ($2.6 billion), down 65 percent from last year, hit also by an estimated 8-yen fall in the dollar to 78 yen.

The new profit forecast is far short of the 270 billion yen it projected in August before withdrawing the guidance citing uncertainty over when car production could restart in Thailand. Honda typically provides cautious projections.

Consensus forecasts from 24 analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S put annual operating profit at 283 billion yen. Honda is the first Japanese automaker to report third-quarter earnings.

Honda, whose bottom line has been propped up by its leading motorcycle business and strong finance arm, expects annual net profit to fall 60 percent to 215 billion yen. The figure, reported under U.S. accounting standards, includes earnings made in China.

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 stock is 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 its top-selling Civic got panned in the United States when it was remodeled last year.

Competition in the United States is set to heat up this year as resurgent giants Ford Motor Co and General Motors Co and South Korea's fast-rising Hyundai Motor Co flex their muscles in the sedan segment that has been dominated by Honda and Toyota Motor Corp.

For the October-December third quarter, operating profit fell 65 percent to 44.3 billion yen, far short of an average estimate of 81.2 billion yen in a poll of nine analysts by Reuters. Net profit 41 percent to 47.66 billion yen.

While acknowledging the criticisms of the revamped Civic, Honda's 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 also by shoring up its struggling Acura premium brand.

Before the results were announced, Honda's shares ended down 0.6 percent, while the benchmark Nikkei average ticked up 0.1 percent.

Domestic rivals Toyota and Nissan are scheduled to announce third-quarter earnings on February 7 and 8.

($1 = 76.3900 Japanese yen)

(Editing by Matt Driskill and Edwina Gibbs)