NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Feb. 21)—Bridgestone Corp., helped in large part by the return to profitability by its Bridgestone/Firestone operations in the Americas, reported a 161-percent jump in net earnings on a 5-percent increase in sales. For 2003, the company is predicting a 50-plus percent gain in net income on flat sales. Bridgestone Americas Holding Inc., the combined Bridgestone/Firestone operating units in North and South America, reported net income of $83 million last year vs. a $1.67 billion loss in 2001. Sales of $7.6 billion were relatively unchanged from a year earlier. Bridgestone Corp.'s net earnings hit $362.5 million on sales of $18 billion—an earnings ratio of 2 percent—while operating income doubled to $1.18 billion, the company said. The improved results in the Americas reflect a 30-percent increase in the sales of Bridgestone-brand tires and a stabilization of the Firestone brand, which experienced strong sales increases in the second half of the year, the company said. Gains also were realized because of improved efficiencies, reduced costs and improved profit margins.