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Nissan's Profit Falls 14%, Sees Decline in 2009

Nissan Motor reported a 13.7 percent drop in fourth quarter operating profit on Tuesday and forecast a sharp fall in annual profits this year due to a weaker dollar, rising commodities prices and sinking U.S. demand.

2009 Nissan Maxima

January-March operating profit at Nissan , Japan's No.3 automaker controlled by Renault, was 211.8 billion yen ($2.0 billion) ahead of an average estimate of 204.8 billion yen in a Reuters Estimates poll of 20 brokerages.

Fourth-quarter net profit rose 67.5 percent to 137.6 billion yen.

For the business year to March 31, 2009, Nissan forecast operating profit to fall to 550 billion yen, versus analysts' consensus expectations for 652 billion yen.

Nissan joined bigger Japanese rivals Toyota Motor and Honda Motor in flagging a tough year ahead.

Nissan has struggled to meet its short- to medium-term targets as competition intensified beyond its expectations in its two biggest markets, the United States and Japan.

While sales in Europe have been robust driven by hit products such as the Qashqai crossover, Nissan has been hit hard by a sharp fall in demand for light trucks such as the Titan pickup in the United States, forcing it to reduce production at two local factories.

Sales of Nissan's U.S.-built light trucks are down 34 percent so far this year, compared with a 1 percent rise for Toyota.

Shares of Nissan fell 24 percent in the year to Monday, worse than the Tokyo's transport sub-index, which lost 16 percent.

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