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TOKYO, Feb 4 AFP

February 04 2013, 7:54PM

Japan's Hitachi says its quarterly profit has plunged 41 per cent, blaming weaker demand for construction machinery and automotive equipment.

The conglomerate, whose products range from diggers to nuclear reactors, said it earned Y20.2 billion ($A209.59 million) in its third quarter to December, down from Y34.2 billion a year earlier.

Sales slipped seven per cent to Y2.11 trillion, it said.

For the nine months to December, Hitachi said net profit was down to Y50.3 billion from Y85.1 billion a year earlier.

The company slashed its full-year to March net profit estimate by Y50 billion to Y150 billion on Y8.9 trillion in revenue.

Weakness in the construction equipment unit was largely due to "lower sales of hydraulic excavators due to the impact of lower demand in China", it said.

But Hitachi said its power systems unit as well as social infrastructure and industrial systems division, which includes its elevator and escalator business, both achieved a boost in sales.

In October, Hitachi said it would buy British atomic power venture Horizon to expand its nuclear business overseas, as the Japanese are wary about atomic power after the Fukushima disaster in 2011.

The purchase price was STG696 million ($A1.05 billion).

Horizon planned to build two or three 1,300-megawatt-class reactors at each of two nuclear power stations in Britain, and Hitachi would take over the task, the Japanese company said at the time.