TOKYO, April 28 (Reuters) - Honda Motor Co (7267.T) lost a smaller-than-expected $2.9 billion in the latest quarter and said it expects to stay in the black in the current year, counting on cost cuts to help it weather the stronger yen and plunging car sales worldwide.
Japan's No.2 automaker made an operating loss of 283 billion yen ($2.93 billion) in the January-March quarter, compared with a profit of 168.84 billion yen a year ago and a consensus estimate of a 331 billion yen loss in a survey of 23 analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.
Its fourth-quarter net loss of 186.16 billion yen was a stark contrast to the profit of 25.43 billion yen a year ago.
For the financial year to March 31, 2010, the maker of the Accord and Civic models expects an operating profit of 10 billion yen and pretax profit of 10 billion yen, narrowly escaping its first ever loss since the company was founded in 1948.
Automakers everywhere are being hammered by an acute downturn in car demand brought on by the worst financial crisis in generations that has some rivals fighting for their very survival.
Shares of Honda have risen 40 percent in the year to date, against a 36 percent rise in Tokyo's transport sub-index .ITEQP.T. ($1=96.71 Yen) (Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim; Editing by Lincoln Feast)