Japan's Mitsubishi says nine-month profit down 23.4%

Japan's largest trading house Mitsubishi Corp. said Friday that its nine-month to December net profit dropped by nearly a quarter on higher costs and a slump at its Australian coal unit.

The company posted a 283.60 billion yen ($3.1 billion) net profit, down 23.4 percent from a year earlier, "mainly due to lower sales prices at an Australian resource-related (coking coal) subsidiary and a steel product-related subsidiary".

The coal project, an alliance between Mitsubishi and Anglo-Australian mining giant BHP Billiton, has been beset by weather problems and a long-running dispute over wages and worker participation in business strategy.

The project is a major earnings driver for Mitsubishi, which on Friday also said its operating profit over the three quarters dropped 62.4 percent to 87.69 billion yen on sales of 14.74 trillion yen, down 2.9 percent.

Mitsubishi kept its fiscal year to March net profit forecast at 330 billion yen on sales of 20 trillion yen, down 27 percent and 0.6 percent respectively from a year earlier.

"Selling, general and administrative expenses increased 20.1 billion yen, or three percent, to 652.1 billion yen, due mainly to higher expenses in line with business expansion," Mitsubishi's statement said Friday.

The company also pointed to the strong yen, which has hurt Japanese firms by making exports less competitive overseas and shrinking the value of repatriated foreign income.

However, the yen has fallen steeply in recent months as a new conservative government has vowed to boost Japan's economy, the world's third-largest.