Newswire

UPDATE 1-Bridgestone '04 recurring profit seen down 13%-paper

TOKYO, Dec 22 (Reuters) - Bridgestone Corp , Japan's biggest tyre maker, will likely see its recurring profit sink 13 percent in the year to December 2004, hurt by the strong yen and higher rubber costs, a business daily said.

Bridgestone's recurring profit for the next business year is expected to be around 130 billion yen ($1.21 billion) compared with a probable 150 billion yen for the current year, the Nihon Keizai said in its Saturday morning edition.

Bridgestone, which vies with Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co of the United States and France's Michelin for supremacy in the global tyre market, described the report as speculative and declined further comment.

The Nihon Keizai figures compare with a consensus estimate from 13 analysts of 159 billion yen in recurring profit -- which is before tax and extraordinary items -- for the next business year after 148 billion yen this year, data from Reuters Research shows.

The business daily said Bridgestone would assume a 10 yen rise in the Japanese currency against the dollar and the euro for the next business year, projecting an average 105 yen against the dollar and an average 120 yen against the euro.

On Monday, the yen was trading around 107.59 against the dollar and 133.36 versus the euro. The daily also said that natural rubber prices were expected to rise by around 30 percent.

While Bridgestone declined comment on next year's earnings, it did say in September that production cuts caused by a fire at one of its plants in Japan would hurt its 2004 recurring income by 14 billion yen.

That would translate into a 10 percent drop compared to its forecast of 140 billion yen in pretax profit for this business year.

Leaving behind a recall scandal three years ago that nearly sank its U.S. Firestone brand, Bridgestone twice revised up its earnings this year on brisk overseas sales before trimming it after the fire at its Tochigi plant, north of Tokyo.

The Nihon Keizai said pretax profit for the current business year to December 2003 will likely exceed the company's earlier forecast on strong overseas sales and the yen's weakening against the euro.

Bridgestone shares were climbing higher on Monday afternoon, adding 1.19 percent to 1,440 yen versus a rise of 0.46 percent in the Nikkei average . ($1=107.86 yen)