Companies' pretax profits fell 22.4% in the July-September quarter from a year earlier, posting the biggest drop in about seven years as the corporate sector was hit hard by the global economic slowdown, the Finance Ministry said Thursday.

The profits, measured on an all-industry basis, slipped for the fifth straight quarter to ¥10.32 trillion. They fell at the fastest pace since a 31.4 percent drop was recorded in the October-December period of 2001, immediately after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the U.S.

Japan Times