Nippon Steel Posts Higher Nine-Month Profit on Strong Auto Sector

Nippon Steel, the world's second-biggest steelmaker, said its nine-month profit edged up 5.1% from a year earlier, and it left its full-year outlook unchanged.

The company, the biggest beneficiary of strong worldwide sales of cars made by Japanese firms such as Toyota Motor and Honda Motor, booked 437.93 billion yen ($3.60 billion) in April-December pretax recurring profit before special items, compared with 416.78 billion yen profit a year ago.

Some analysts expect full-year profit to beat last year's 547.4 billion yen, and ring up a third consecutive year of record earnings.

Stable price trends in Asia in January-March, despite greater output in China, are also helping rivals JFE Holdings, which makes 40% of its sales to Asian customers outside Japan, and South Korea's POSCO.

Nippon Steel shares have risen by half since mid-November, beating a 37% gain on the iron and steel subindex and the Nikkei average's 11% rise over the same period.

The shares have been buoyed by persistent talk of consolidation in the global steel sector following the mega-merger of Mittal and Arcelor.