Bajaj Auto leads industry with 20.6 pct profit margin

MUMBAI Thu May 17, 2012 2:32pm IST

Newly built motorbikes are seen at the Bajaj Auto Ltd. plant in Pune, about 130 km (82 miles) from Mumbai August 9, 2007. REUTERS/Punit Paranjpe/Files

Newly built motorbikes are seen at the Bajaj Auto Ltd. plant in Pune, about 130 km (82 miles) from Mumbai August 9, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Punit Paranjpe/Files

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MUMBAI (Reuters) - Bajaj Auto(BAJA.NS), India's second-largest motorcycle maker, maintained its industry-leading profit margins in its fiscal fourth quarter as robust sales growth helped offset rising commodity prices.

The world's third-largest manufacturer of motorcycles rode a 26 percent rise in exports to post quarterly sales in excess of 1 million vehicles for the fourth consecutive quarter.

"Despite input cost pressures, better realization from exports enabled the company to declare ... earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of 9.72 billion rupees," Kevin D'sa, president (finance) said in a statement.

The company said its operating margin before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation stood at 20.7 percent in the March quarter, although profit fell 45 percent, missing estimates, due to lower exceptional income.

Net profit fell to 7.72 billion rupees from 14 billion in the year-earlier period when the earnings were boosted by an exceptional income of 7.25 billion rupees. Revenue rose 12 percent to 45.16 billion rupees.

Analysts had on average expected the company to post profit of 7.94 billion rupees on revenue of 48.71 billion rupees.

Bajaj said net profit before exceptional items rose an annual 18 percent during the three months to March 31.

Sales of motorcycles and scooters -- family vehicles for millions in Asia's third-largest economy -- grew 12 percent in the year to March, partly benefiting from a slowdown in sales of small cars after a series of interest rate increases.

But Bajaj and its local rivals Hero MotoCorp (HROM.NS) and TVS Motor (TVSM.NS) are starting to come under pressure from Japanese manufacturers such as Honda Motor Co (7267.T), as they ramp up activity in the fast-growing market.

The Indian company slipped a place to third position in terms of domestic two-wheeler sales in March, before climbing back above Honda last month.

Shares in Bajaj, valued at about $8.6 billion, marginally pared losses after the results. The stock was down 1.1 percent at 0810 GMT in a Mumbai market up 0.5 percent.

(Reporting by Henry Foy; Editing by Ranjit Gangadharan)

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