Ricoh Third-Quarter Profit Rises on Printer Sales (Update3)
Feb. 3 (Bloomberg) -- Ricoh Co., Japan's second-largest office equipment maker, said fiscal third-quarter profit rose 13 percent as it sold more color printers and gained market share in the U.S. and Europe.

Net income was 22.2 billion yen ($213 million), or 30.08 yen a share, in the three months ended Dec. 31, compared with 19.7 billion yen, or 26.53 yen a share, a year earlier, the company said today in a release distributed at the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Sales gained 5.4 percent to 443.7 billion yen.

Companies such as Ricoh and Canon Inc. are benefiting as businesses replace old copiers with digital models featuring fax machines and scanners. Japan's shipments of copiers and other office equipment are predicted to jump 9.5 percent to 4.22 million units in 2005, the Japan Business Machine and Information System Industries Association said in December.

``Sales were higher than expected,'' Hisashi Moriyama, an analyst at JPMorgan Chase's brokerage unit in Tokyo, said in an e- mailed comment. Moriyama has had an ``overweight'' rating on Ricoh's stock since July, 2003.

Sales at Tokyo-based Ricoh's printing system business, which includes multifunction printers, rose 35.9 percent to 169.3 billion yen in the third-quarter. Color models made up 30 percent of all copiers, compared with 25 percent a year ago.

Ricoh raised its full-year sales forecast 0.3 percent to 1.815 trillion, and lowered its estimate for operating profit, or sales minus the cost of goods sold and administrative expenses, to 147 billion yen from 151 billion yen.

`Recovery'

`In the third-quarter, we recovered from the declines in the first half,'' Zenji Miura, a managing director, said at a news conference in Tokyo. ``And we're heading toward growth starting next year.''

The company left its full-year net income forecast unchanged at 85 billion yen. It had a 91.8 billion yen profit last year.

Ricoh estimates the yen will trade at 107.67 against the dollar this fiscal year, and 133.45 versus the euro. The yen strengthened 2.8 percent against the dollar in the third quarter, with an average exchange rate of 105.81. Japan's currency weakened 5.8 percent against the euro to an average of 137.17 yen.

European sales rose 8.2 percent in the quarter, while revenue from the U.S. gained 3 percent, the company said.

``We continue to expand our market share in U.S. and Europe in the second half,'' Miura said.

Gain at Home

In the January-June period, the company said its market share for copiers in Europe rose to 28.4 percent from 27.7 percent. In the U.S., it gained to 16.2 percent from 15.4 percent.

Operating profit for the quarter ended Dec. 31 rose to 38.7 billion yen from 36.2 billion yen. Revenue in Japan, which accounts for about 48 percent of Ricoh's sales, rose 8.6 percent.

Ricoh also said today it plans to spend up to 10 billion yen to buy back 5.5 million of its shares.

Shares of Ricoh, which dropped 6.5 percent last year compared with a 10 percent gain in Japan's benchmark Topix index, fell 5 yen to 1,841 yen in Tokyo today. The results were released after the market closed at 3 p.m.
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