Exploding air-bag maker Takata logs loss on soaring recall costs

TOKYO - The Japanese auto parts giant at the centre of an exploding air-bag crisis warned Friday that it has sunk into the red as the costs of huge global recalls pile up.

Tokyo-based Takata, whose faulty air bags have been linked to at least five deaths, posted a net loss of 29.56 billion yen (S$327 million, US$246 million) in the past year to March.

About 20 million vehicles produced by some of the largest automakers, including Toyota and General Motors, have been recalled worldwide because of the risk that a Takata-made airbag could improperly inflate and rupture, potentially firing deadly shrapnel at the occupants.

Facing lawsuits and regulatory probes, Takata acknowledged the crisis has taken a toll on its results, but added that it expects to eke out a 20 billion yen net profit in the current business year.

"At this point it is difficult to rationally estimate (the) financial impact of the lawsuits," the company said Friday.

Despite the dismal bottom-line results, Takata said it booked a 25 per cent surge in operating profit and 15 per cent jump in revenue.

The company, one of the world's biggest air-bag makers, is a key supplier to major automakers with dozens of plants and offices in 20 countries, including the United States, China and Mexico.

Little-known outside Japan, Takata was founded in 1933 as a textile company that evolved into an automotive parts giant which started selling airbags in the eighties.