Automaker Proton Posts Profit

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- Malaysian national carmaker Proton said Tuesday it returned to the black in the quarter through March, with revenue boosted by the launch of its first seven-seater multipurpose vehicle.

Proton said its net profit rose to 54.55 million ringgit ($15 million) in the first quarter, up about 5 percent from the same period last year. Revenue increased 8 percent on-year to 1.85 billion ringgit ($523 million).

The net profit marked a rebound from a 341.5 million ringgit ($96.5 million) loss it made in the previous quarter -- largely due to one-off impairment loss on plant and equipment.

Proton said its car sales in the first quarter dipped 2 percent from the same period last year to 39,327 units, but was up 12 percent from the previous quarter.

Strong sales of its Exora multipurpose vehicle, introduced here in March, lifted its overall performance, it said in a statement. Its market share rose to 27 percent in the first half of this year, up from below 25 percent earlier.

The new Exora model marks a turning point in state-owned Proton's product range, which previously focused only on passenger cars.

Managing Director Syed Zainal Abidin Syed Mohamed Tahir said the affordable 1.6 liter-engine Exora, targeted at young families, was well received after its recent launch in Indonesia.

Proton plans to export the Exora to other markets in Southeast Asia such as Thailand amid signs of recovery in the global auto industry, he said. Proton however, remains cautious about the sustainability of the global economic recovery despite the improved outlook, he added.

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