Toyota outlook bleak as parts shortage hits output

Tue May 10, 2011 8:34pm EDT

* Toyota likely to delay announcing annual forecasts

* Consensus sees 40 pct drop in 2011/12 op profit

* Profits seen spiking in 2012/13 once output normalises

* Fresh threat to production from nuclear plant shutdown

* Toyota 2010/11 results due at 0600 GMT, Toyoda to brief

By Chang-Ran Kim, Asia autos correspondent

TOKYO, May 11 (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp is facing another tough year as a severe shortage of parts caused by the March 11 earthquake hammers production just as the world's biggest automaker was putting its recall woes behind it.

Like rival Honda Motor Co , Toyota is expected to forego announcing annual financial forecasts when it reports fourth-quarter results on Wednesday until it gets a clearer picture of the pace of recovery in production.

Toyota has said it expects a full normalisation by November or December from less than half of planned volumes now, but has stopped short of specifying how fast it would get there. The Nikkei newspaper said on Tuesday production will return to normal two or three months earlier than expected as the supply of parts stabilises, although Toyota denied the report. [ID:nL3E7GA0NK]

The massive hit to production will almost certainly mean Toyota will fall behind General Motors Co and possibly Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE) to rank third in global vehicle sales this year. [ID:nL3E7FP06P]

With inventory tight and supplies falling short for popular models such as the Prius, Toyota is losing customers to rivals such as South Korea's Hyundai Motor Co , which has been nipping at its heels for the past several years.

But analysts say the disruption is a temporary one caused by the shortage of supply, not demand, and that Japanese automakers should reverse the trend next business year.

An average forecast from 16 analysts who revised their numbers after the quake calls for Toyota's operating profit to fall to 307.5 billion yen ($3.83 billion) in the year to March 2012 from an estimated 516.8 billion yen last year. Uncertainties over supply have yielded a wide range, from a loss of 25 billion yen to a profit of 846 billion yen.

Eleven analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S forecast Toyota's operating profit at 1.162 trillion yen in 2012/13.

January-March operating profit is expected to fall 0.7 percent to 94.6 billion yen from 95.3 billion yen a year ago.

CRISIS AFTER CRISIS

President Akio Toyoda's first two years at the helm have been some of the rockiest for the company founded by his grandfather in 1937.

Having taken over in June 2009 shortly after the financial crisis plunged Toyota to its first consolidated operating loss ever, Toyoda presided over an unprecedented recall crisis that shook the company to its core and forced him to testify in congressional hearings in the United States last year.

The magnitude-9.0 earthquake and the tsunami that destroyed hundreds of kilometers of Japan's northeastern seaboard in March have introduced a new challenge for Toyoda, who has stressed that his company remains committed to producing at least 3 million vehicles in Japan despite the strong yen, expensive labour and now the geographical risks.

Last year, Toyota produced 43 percent of its vehicles in Japan, more than half of that for unprofitable exports. Analysts blame that as the main culprit for Toyota's slow recovery in earnings compared to Nissan Motor Co and Honda, which depend far less on Japan for production and sales.

A new risk surfaced this week when Chubu Electric Power Co , which provides electricity to half of Toyota's assembly plants in Japan, said it would close a nuclear plant that provides about 14 percent of the electricity in its coverage area due to safety concerns. [ID:nL3E7G90H0]

Toyota has said it would cooperate with efforts to reduce power consumption as much as possible, but a disruption to electricity supply could delay a return to normal levels of production in the worst case, some say.

"If it stays hot in September, October and November when vehicle production is supposed to be picking up and it turns out there's not enough electricity, then it's possible we'll see an impact," said Koji Endo, senior analyst at Advanced Research Japan.

Toyoda is scheduled to attend the news conference to announce 2010/11 results at 3 p.m. (0600 GMT) in Tokyo on Wednesday.

Toyota's shares have led a fall in Japanese auto stocks since the disaster, losing 11 percent compared with 9.9 percent at Honda and 5.8 percent at Nissan.

($1 = 80.275 Japanese Yen) (Editing by Matt Driskill)

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