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Unicharm seen beating April-December estimates

TOKYO -- Unicharm likely topped its April-December earnings forecast on brisk sales of diapers in China, Southeast Asia and other foreign markets as well as premium offerings at home.

     Operating profit is seen at around 59 billion yen ($493 million) for the nine-month period, a short fiscal year resulting from a change in the accounting period. The figure beats its projection by 2.4 billion yen. Unicharm logged a 49.1 billion yen operating profit a year earlier.

     As of Jan. 14, analysts on average projected an operating profit of 57.8 billion yen in a QUICK survey.

     Overall sales likely came to 550 billion yen, exceeding the company's forecast by 10 billion yen and besting the year-earlier 438.9 billion yen. Overseas sales accounted for more than 60% of the total for the first time.

     In China, a higher-end diaper brand fully launched last fiscal year proved a hit with affluent city dwellers. Unicharm's total Chinese sales likely rose about 20% on the year, with operating profit jumping 60% or so. Sales of sanitary napkins were also brisk.

     In Southeast Asia, diaper sales increased as the middle class grew. Operating profit in Vietnam is believed to have grown about 10%. Diaper sales have doubled in India, where the population is growing rapidly, leading to a smaller operating loss resulting from factory construction and promotional expenses. Operating profit apparently climbed around 20% in Saudi Arabia.

     Unicharm is also enjoying steady growth in Japan. The average unit price has risen since the company began focusing on sales of the high-end Moony diaper brand instead of its standard MamyPoko varieties. Pet products have also fared well.

     For the current year ending Dec. 31, Unicharm has set its sights on boosting sales and profit from the year-earlier period. It aims to increase domestic sales of not only diapers, but also such other offerings as incontinence products for adults and pet care products. It also hopes to expand in such overseas markets as the Middle East, Africa and South America.

(Nikkei)

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