TOKYO — Kao Corp. said Friday that its net profit for the three months ended March 31 more than doubled on increased sales and lower expenses.

The company’s net profit in the first quarter totaled 25.2 billion yen, or $245.2 million at average exchange rates for the period. This is compared with a net income of 10.52 billion yen, or $114.3 million, for the same period the previous year.

First-quarter operating profit also came in at more than double the previous year’s figure, rising to 39.64 billion yen, or $385.7 million. This was over 18.34 billion yen, or $199.1 million.

Kao said its net sales for the period increased by 18 percent to 341.2 billion yen, or $3.32 billion. Excluding the effects of currency translation, sales would have increased 15 percent.

The company said it was helped by increased spending in Japan, due to last-minute rush buying before the country’s consumption tax increase of three percent on the first of this month.

“The household and personal care products market in Japan, a key market for the Kao Group, grew by 17 percent on a value basis compared with the same period a year earlier, and a sense has emerged that the decline in consumer purchase prices had bottomed out. In addition, the cosmetics market in Japan grew by 22 percent,” the company said in a release.

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Kao left unchanged its guidance for the current fiscal year, ending Dec. 31. It expects net income to grow 15.8 percent to 75 billion yen, or $732.5 million at current exchange rates. The company forecasts operating income will increase by 4.3 percent to 130 billion yen, or $1.27 billion. It is predicting sales growth of 4.2 percent, to 1.37 trillion yen, or $13.38 billion.

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