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Japanese tire maker Bridgestone reports 69% profit drop

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Japanese tire maker Bridgestone Corp. reported a 69 per cent drop in profits for the first three quarters Wednesday, blaming expenses from the surging cost of rubber and other raw materials as well as the closures of two plants in the U.S.

Profit at Bridgestone for the nine months ended Sept. 30 slid to 50 billion yen (US$427.4 million), from 159.3 billion yen for the same period the previous year.

Bridgestone said the drop in profit came amid increased sales in Japan, the U.S., Europe and other regions. Sales during the nine months rose 13 per cent to 2.163 trillion yen ($18.49 billion), from 1.921 trillion yen the year before.

Sales in overseas markets were lifted in part by a weaker yen, ,strong bus and truck tire sales in the U.S. and increased sales of passenger car and light truck tires in Europe, it said in a statement.

The company left unchanged its fiscal year forecast for a profit of 62 billion yen ($530 million) on sales of 2.95 trillion yen ($25.22 billion).

Bridgestone's results have only in recent years recovered from losses related to a massive tire-recall scandal at its U.S. subsidiary, Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire, six years ago.

Last year, Bridgestone paid $240 million to Ford Motor Co. (NYSE:F) to settle its dispute with the U.S. automaker in lawsuits related to the 2000-2001 recalls of Firestone tires on Ford vehicles.

At least 271 people were reported killed and hundreds more injured in accidents involving Firestone ATX and AT tires, and the manufacturer recalled 6.5 million tires.

The settlement ended the dispute between Bridgestone and Ford, which saw the reputation of its Explorer sport-utility vehicle damaged because that model was involved in most of the accidents. Bridgestone blamed the accidents on defects in some Ford vehicles, while Ford maintains the tires were entirely at fault.

Bridgestone reported earnings results before the close of trade on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, where its shares finished up 0.2 per cent at 2,445 yen ($20.90).

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Japanese tire maker Bridgestone reports 69% profit drop
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