August 4, 2017 / 6:40 AM / 8 months ago

UPDATE 1-Japan's Itochu posts record Q1 profit on higher coal, iron ore prices

* Metals profit more than doubles in Q1

* Food, textile, machinery profits rise over 20 pct

* CFO sees iron ore, coking coal prices falling later 2017 (Adds executive comment, detail)

By Yuka Obayashi

TOKYO, Aug 4 (Reuters) - Japanese trading company Itochu Corp said on Friday its first-quarter net profit rose 48 percent to a record level, citing higher coal and iron ore prices and healthy earnings from food businesses.

Itochu, Japan’s third-biggest trading house by assets, said net profit for April-June was 108.2 billion yen ($983 million), up from 73.1 billion yen in the same period a year earlier.

“We were off to a fairly good start,” Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Tsuyoshi Hachimura told a news conference.

“Our mid- and small-sized units have made solid profits. Plus, we were able to benefit from higher resource prices.”

Non-resource business segments such as food, textile and machinery each reported growth of over 20 percent, while its metals profit jumped by 2-1/2 times.

“Profits from our units whose annual earnings come below 2 billion yen ($18 million) account for 75 percent of our group profit, underlining low vulnerability to economic or commodity downturns,” Hachimura said.

For the full year through March, Itochu maintained its forecast for record annual net profit of 400 billion yen, up 13.6 percent from last year and in line with a mean estimate of 398 billion yen from nine analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Hachimura said the firm was maintaining its earlier assumption that natural resource prices such as iron ore and coking coal will weaken later this year, despite a recent rally.

“Iron ore supply will likely increase and ... it would be too optimistic to think the current high level of crude steel output in China will continue given the government’s effort to tackle overcapacity,” Hachimura said. He declined to give specific price forecasts for the key steel-making ingredients.

Hachimura also said Itochu wanted to slightly increase its interests in oil and gas assets, making fresh energy investment on its own or with Chinese partner CITIC. ($1 = 110.0700 yen) (Reporting by Yuka Obayashi; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell and Joseph Radford)

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