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Mazda aims to lift oper profit by 27 pct by 2010/11

From autonews| March 23,2007

Mazda Motor Corp. said on Thursday it aims to boost operating profit by more than 27 percent to over 200 billion yen ($1.70 billion) and targets annual global sales of more than 1.6 million vehicles by the year ending March 2011.

The Hiroshima-based carmaker one-third-owned by Ford Motor Co. also said it would expand production capacity in Japan to 996,000 units a year in the business year starting in April, up from 898,000 currently.

Under a new four-year business plan ending in March 2011, the company said it would deepen synergies with Ford.

For the year ending this month, Mazda has forecast a group operating profit of 158 billion yen.

With most of its sales growth occurring overseas, Mazda's exports shot up 18 percent last year -- faster than the 13 percent surge in overseas production -- leading to big windfalls from a weaker yen.

But analysts have warned that Mazda will need to spread out its manufacturing overseas to shield itself against unfavorable swings in exchange rates. The company builds three-quarters of its vehicles in Japan, which accounts for just one-fifth of its global sales volume.

In 2006, Mazda built 966,500 vehicles in Japan and 344,000 vehicles overseas, while global retail sales including Mazda-badged vehicles built by other automakers totaled 1.23 million units.

Its four factories in Japan can now build 898,000 vehicles a year. Mazda and Ford own one joint venture factory each in the United States and Thailand.

Mazda uses about half of the capacity at the Thai factory, producing 86,577 pickup trucks last year, while it utilizes less than a third of the Flat Rock, Michigan site's 240,000 units-a-year capacity.

Mazda also owns 15 percent of a three-way car assembly venture in Nanjing, China with Ford and the Changan Automotive Group, which has a total output capacity of 200,000 units a year.

Before the announcement, shares in Mazda closed up 3.6 percent at 660 yen, against a 1.49 percent rise in the Nikkei average .

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