French forklift and crane trucks group Manitou faces risks from the disaster in Japan, where it buys parts such as engines, though it is too early to assess any impact on sales, its chief executive said.

Business during the first quarter ending March 31 was probably in line with expectations despite ongoing supply chain difficulties and it is too soon to review its financial targets, Jean-Christophe Giroux told Reuters on Thursday.

Manitou, in which Japanese car maker Toyota holds a 3 percent stake, does not have operations in Japan but buys parts from several equipment makers including Kubota and Takeuchi.

“Our direct and indirect exposure amounts to around 25 percent of our sales,” Giroux said in an interview, referring to Japan. “However, we don’t have all the necessary information yet to take stock of the situation, it will take a few weeks.”

Giroux said his company had offered to lend equipment to rescue teams. Last year, 33 miners in Chile were brought back to the surface after 69 days trapped underground thanks to a dedicated capsule lifted by a Manitou machine.

Severely hurt during the financial crisis, the group reported stronger 2010 earnings on March 2 and predicted an increase of 20 percent in sales this year, a rise in operating profit of 2-4 percent and a positive net profit.

Manitou, which competes with JCB of the UK, French peer Haulotte and Caterpillar of the United States, plans to enter Brazil and India this year and hopes to return to an operating margin of 10 percent from 2014, Giroux added.

“I want us to accelerate in countries where there is no market for our products such as Brazil and India, we really want to create the market in those countries,” Giroux said.

“We will need to rationalise our supply chain as we have more than 1,000 suppliers,” he said. “It should take us two to three years.”

Giroux said Manitou would also seek to grow in the mining industry where it sees several potential uses for its forklifts and lifters. (Reuters)