Toho, Japan's largest film distributor and exhibitor, has forecast after-tax net profit of Y6.7bn ($62.0m) in 2000, for a gain of 2% compared with the previous financial year.

If Toho achieves this figure, it will mark the company's third straight year of record net profit. However current profit is expected to drop for the 2000 financial year. Toho estimates that sales for 2000 will total Y76bn ($703.7m), if revenue patterns for the previous year continue.

The company is confident of steady earnings from the latest instalments in its popular Doraemon and Pokemon series. But while anticipating strong box office returns from its big summer films - actioner Whiteout and teen drama Juvenile - Toho does not believe that they will equal the returns of such recent blockbusters as Princess Mononoke and Bayside Shakedown.

Toho reported 1999 sales of Y77bn ($713m) for a drop of 8%, while current profit totalled Y13bn ($120.3m) for a 6% decline, not taking into account changes in corporate tax accounting rules implemented during the period. Meanwhile, after-tax net profit was Y6.55bn ($60.6m).

Toho is forecasting a 15% drop in current profit this fiscal year, to Y11bn ($101.8m), partly because of the rising cost of foreign film rights which is putting pressure on the company's bottom line.