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Bridgestone's first-half earnings approach $1 billion

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Bridgestone Corp. posted net income of $919.4 million on consolidated net sales of $11.4 billion for the six-month period ending June 30, 2005. Both were increases (95% and 9%, respectively) compared to the same period last year.

The company also reported operating income of $831.7 million, which was in line with the first half of 2004.

The substantial increase in net income was primarily related to certain non-recurring pension plan income items in Japan, which were partially offset by certain one-time impairment losses, according to the company.

The company's Bridgestone Americas Holding Inc. (BSAH) subsidiary recorded first-half net income of $138 million (up 35%), sales of $4.89 billion (up 13%) and operating income of $185 million (up 16%).

Bridgestone credited "enhanced tire product and brand mix and increased efficiencies, which helped offset unprecedented increases in raw material costs," for the improvement in operating income.

BSAH benefited from strong growth in its Latin American Operations and in BFS Diversified Products LLC. BFS Retail & Commercial Operations LLC also exhibited growth in the first half of 2005.

The company's North American tire manufacturing and wholesaling operations, Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire LLC (BFNT), reported a slight increase in overall passenger and light truck tire unit sales in the first half, broken out as follows:

* "robust" sales in the replacement segment.

* a decline in original equipment shipments (due to a decline in unit vehicle production).

BFNT experienced overall growth in unit sales of truck and bus tires during the period. BFNT's off-the-road and agricultural tire groups also experienced a strong first half.

"Despite the obstacles we faced during the first half -- including increasing petroleum and other raw material, energy and medical benefit costs, as well as a global shortage of truck, bus and off-the-road tires -- each of our business units continued to show strength," said John Vispo, BSAH vice president of finance and corporate controller.

BSAH is forecasting net sales of $10.15 billion for 2005, a $1 billion increase over 2004 and a company record. In addition, it is predicting 2005 operating profit of $390 million and net income of $280 million, increases of 47% and 52%, respectively, over the prior year.

Regarding its business units, BSAH expects results in its diversified products, retail and Latin American operations to remain strong for the full year 2005.

BSAH also is predicting that BFNT will achieve a positive full-year profit-before-tax, a first for the four-year-old company.

BSAH expects sales of replacement passenger and light truck tires in the second half of 2005 to remain strong, with sales of replacement truck and bus tires continuing to lag demand due to global supply constraints. On the original equipment side, the company expects that truck and bus tire demand will remain strong, while passenger and light truck sales will show a slight decrease over the prior year.

For the full year, Bridgestone Corp. is projecting sales of $23.5 billion (2.6 trillion yen), operating income of $1.78 billion (198 billion yen) and net income of $1.47 billion (163 billion yen).

(Dollar equivalents were computed at a rate of 110.62 yen to the U.S. dollar.)

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