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Japanese automaker Honda's profit surges on sales recovery, trims forecast amid China backlash

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FILE - In this Oct. 29, 2012 file photo, a man inspects Honda vehicles displayed in front of Honda Motor Co. headquarters in Tokyo. Honda's quarterly profit surged nearly 63 percent as production recovered after disruptions from natural disasters. The Japanese automaker reported a 77.4 billion yen (US$850 million) profit for the October-December period Thursday, as sales jumped nearly 25 percent to 2.4 trillion yen (US$26 billion). (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara, File)

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TOKYO - Honda's quarterly profit surged nearly 63 per cent as production recovered after disruptions from natural disasters, but the Japanese automaker slightly lowered its full-year profit forecast because of sales losses in China.

Tokyo-based Honda Motor Co. reported a 77.4 billion yen ($850 million) profit for the October-December period Thursday. Quarterly sales jumped nearly 25 per cent to 2.4 trillion yen ($26 billion).

All the Japanese automakers are seeing a dramatic recovery from the quake and tsunami in northeastern Japan in 2011, which destroyed key suppliers.

Honda was also hurt by flooding in Thailand in late 2011. On top of the sales recovery, they are getting a perk from a weakening yen, which helps lift the value of overseas earnings.

Japanese automakers are reporting solid sales increases in the key U.S. market and in Asian countries such as India and Indonesia. The exception is China where anti-Japanese sentiment flared up last year over a territorial dispute, and Honda expects to lose sales of 20,000 vehicles compared with its earlier plan.

Honda reported quarterly sales growth in all key global regions, including the U.S., Japan, the U.S., Europe and Asia. It also did a healthy business in motorcycles, for which has a long history and reputation, especially in Asia.

Honda kept its sales forecast for the fiscal year through March unchanged at 9.8 trillion yen ($108 billion), but lowered its net profit projection by 5 billion yen ($55 million) to 370 billion yen ($4 billion). The new projection would still represent a 75 per cent improvement over its result during the disaster-hammered previous fiscal year.

The maker of the Odyssey minivan, Fit subcompact and Asimo walking robot said it now expects to sell slightly fewer vehicles for the fiscal year at 4.06 million vehicles, although that's up from 3.1 million vehicles for the previous year.

Honda had expected to sell 4.1 million vehicles, but that number was lowered because of the China problems, company spokesman Tsuyoshi Hojo said.

Honda has not had to lower its annual revenue forecast, partly because it is getting a lift from a favourable exchange rate, he said.

Weakening demand in Europe, where some countries are being hit by a slowdown, also contributed to the lowered vehicle sales forecast.

Honda said incentive spending in the U.S. squeezed its profit forecast but the main cause was the lowered vehicle sales in China.

Toyota Motor Corp., the world's top automaker, and Nissan Motor Co., Japan's No. 2 automaker, report earnings next week. They are also expected to highlight a robust recovery in the Japanese auto industry.

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Follow Yuri Kageyama on Twitter at www.twitter.com/yurikageyama

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