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Malaysia's Proton posts strong quarterly profit

Perkhidmatan Kertas Kerja Pinjaman dan Percukaian

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — National carmaker Proton reported upbeat news about the most recent quarter Thursday: a jump in quarterly net profit, stronger sales and a bigger share of Malaysia's domestic auto market.

And despite the global economic slowdown, it still plans to start selling its first seven-seater multipurpose vehicle by March — an offering meant to appeal to families and young people.

Proton said it posted a net profit of 43.8 million ringgit ($12.2 million) in the quarter through September, up from 3.5 million ringgit in the same period last year. Revenue rose 41 percent to 1.84 billion ringgit.

Net profit however, was lower than 52 million ringgit recorded in the previous quarter following provisions for higher raw material and component cost, and increased overhead, officials said.

"We are realistic that moving forward, the operating environment will be very challenging. Evidence of this can already be seen in the global automotive industry," said Chairman Mohammed Azlan Hashim. "We will continue with our efforts to minimize costs and improve efficiency in our operations while investing for our future."

Azlan said Proton, which returned to the black in its fiscal year ended March this year, expects its "positive performance to continue" but declined to say if it can sustain its profitability as the economic downturn hits demand.

Proton said its domestic and overseas sales rose to 44,677 units in the July-August quarter, up from 39,888 in the previous quarter, after it launched several low-priced models this year. It improved its domestic market share to 33 percent from 24 percent last year.

Managing Director Syed Zainal Abidin Syed Mohamed Tahir said the automaker hasn't experienced any sharp drop in sales so far. He expects Proton's new multipurpose vehicle to be launched in March to help prop up sales next year. Proton has traditionally made only five-seater passenger cars.

"Things are on track. We are very excited that it will open a new segment for us not only in Malaysia, but also the region. We need to focus on fuel efficient cars and mass market products," he said.

In the fiscal year ended March 31, Proton posted a net profit of 202.9 million ringgit (US$62 million, rebounding from a loss of 589.5 million ringgit the previous year.

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