May 2, 2018 / 9:40 AM / 4 months ago

UPDATE 1-Japan's Itochu posts 14 pct rise in annual profit on higher coal prices

* FY2017/18 profit misses analysts estimate

* Forecasts record Y450 bln net profit for FY18/19

* Pays record div in FY17/18, sees higher div in FY18/19 (Adds quotes)

By Yuka Obayashi

TOKYO, May 2 (Reuters) - Japanese trading house Itochu Corp on Wednesday said its annual net profit jumped 13.7 percent to a record level in the last financial year, boosted by higher coal prices and a strong performance in its food and retail operations.

The company also predicted another record profit for the current financial year, which kicked off last month.

Japanese trading houses are enjoying their best profits in several years, driven by higher prices for commodities from metals and coking coal to oil and natural gas.

“The biggest growth came from our metal division which benefited from higher coal prices, dividend from our Colombia’s coal mine and strong trade in our metal products units,” CFO Tsuyoshi Hachimura told an earnings news conference.

Non-resource segments, which account for 80 percent of Itochu’s profit, including U.K. tyre sales, Indonesia’s natural rubber operation and its pulp business in Brazil and Finland, along with food and retail in Japan, also lent support, he added.

Itochu’s net profit for the year ended March 31 came to 400.33 billion yen ($3.7 billion), marking a record for the second straight year.

That came in line with its own forecast of 400 billion yen, but fell short of a mean estimate of 432 billion yen among 9 analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S, sending its shares down by 2.6 percent. Tokyo’s overall stock market slid 0.2 percent on Wednesday.

The results were affected by large one-off losses booked in the January-March quarter, including a 29 billion yen impairment loss on its stake in C.P. Pokphand Co. Ltd, a Hong-Kong listed agri-food company which faced falling pork prices due to China’s decision to cut imports.

For the year until the end of March 2019, Itochu forecast a record net profit of 450 billion yen, beating a mean estimate of 431 billion yen among 9 analysts.

It also forecast a record annual dividend of 74 yen per share for this year, up from 70 yen for the year just ended.

“We are aiming at third consecutive year of record profit through expanding and evolving existing businesses as well as aggressively promoting next-generation businesses,” CEO Masahiro Okafuji said, pointing to projects using new technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI).

$1 = 109.7400 yen Reporting by Yuka Obayashi Editing by Joseph Radford and Sunil Nair

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