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Mitsubishi Motors sets ambitious goals as revival campaign enters final lap

Mitsubishi Motors Corp's vehicles are seen at the company headquarters in Tokyo November 6, 2013. REUTERS/Issei Kato
Mitsubishi Motors Corp's vehicles are seen at the company headquarters in Tokyo November 6, 2013. REUTERS/Issei Kato

By Yoko Kubota

TOKYO (Reuters) - Mitsubishi Motors Corp <7211.T> laid out plans to boost production and profit by about one-third over three years with a focus on emerging markets as it turns the page on a decade-long revival campaign.

The second-tier Japanese automaker also said it would offer new shares to raise up to $2.1 billion to repay other Mitsubishi companies that funded a 2004 bailout after a recall cover-up scandal and the unraveling of its alliance with DaimlerChrysler.

"We will no longer be a company under reconstruction but, rather, a normal company," Mitsubishi Motors President Osamu Masuko told a news conference on Wednesday.

Shares in the company ended up 0.6 percent at 1,114, compared with Tokyo's benchmark Nikkei average <.N225> which closed up 0.8 percent.

The announcement came just a day after the maker of Triton pickup trucks and the Outlander Sport SUV unveiled a potentially wide-ranging operating alliance with Nissan Motor Co <7201.T> and Renault SA .

Mitsubishi Motors, which had been one of the few smaller carmakers in Japan without a big global partner, will be able to share development and manufacturing costs with its allies while Nissan will gain greater access to Mitsubishi's microcar plants.

Mitsubishi Motors, which was early to bring a small electric car to market with the i-MiEV, aims for electric vehicles to account for 20 percent of its production by 2020, but development costs pose a particularly heavy burden for smaller players.

The company said on Wednesday it aims to boost operating profit to a record 135 billion yen ($1.37 billion) by the year to March 2017, from its target of 100 billion yen this financial year. On a net basis it has already targeted a record 70 billion yen profit this year.

The company also aims to sell 1.43 million vehicles annually by the 2016/17 business year, a rise of nearly 30 percent from its sales forecast of 1.11 million for this year.

The vast bulk of those increased sales would come from emerging markets while average annual capital spending in the next three years will rise about 50 percent versus the previous three-year period, to 100 billion yen. Some of that may be spent on new plants in Indonesia and the Philippines.

PREFERRED SHARES

The carmaker will buy back the preferred shares it issued to Mitsubishi companies that funded its bailout or convert them to common shares, but the Mitsubishi group will retain its prominent role with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd <7011.T>, Mitsubishi Corp <8058.T> and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc <8306.T> holding at least 34 percent of the automaker.

Nissan and Renault said they were not considering equity ties at this time.

Masuko said he sees no need for a capital alliance and that project-based operational ties would be sufficient.

"We are not necessarily limiting our partnerships to just the Renault-Nissan alliance," he added.

Sources familiar with the situation flagged Mitsubishi Motors' plans for a common share issue and preferred share disposal late last month. Those plans and an upward revision in its earnings outlook helped to spark a more than 10 percent surge in its shares over four sessions, although they have since stabilized.

(Editing by Edmund Klamann and Christopher Cushing)

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