Nippon Steel sees profit growth on auto sheet demand

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TOKYO, Nov 7 (Reuters) Nippon Steel Corp, the world's second-biggest steelmaker, said on Wednesday it expects its earnings to continue to grow at least for the next few years on tight supplies of automotive sheet steel.

''Demand for high-grade automotive sheet steel will continue growing for some time. We expect our earnings to continue increasing in the next few years,'' Kiichiroh Masuda, executive vice president of Nippon Steel, told Reuters in an interview.

''Iron ore and other raw materials costs could rise, but we expect to be able to pass on the higher costs under current market conditions,'' he said.

Nippon Steel last week kept unchanged its full-year earnings forecast 600 billion yen (.2 billion), virtually flat from last year, disappointing the market.

''We kept it unchanged for the time being because freight and other costs had been rising,'' he said. ''But some other positive factors like rising export prices and price hikes on shipbuilding plate and other products starting in the second half have not been taken into account in the forecast.'' Masuda said the company also expects profits from its affiliates in Brazil and China to increase in the second half on strong demand for car sheet on the global market.

REUTERS BJR DS1646

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