Toyota raises profit forecast, boosted by weak yen, strong U.S. sales

TOKYO Fri Aug 2, 2013 2:17am EDT

TOKYO Aug 2 (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp raised its operating profit forecast for the financial year ending in March 2014 by 7.8 percent on Friday as the weakening yen makes its export business more profitable and as it posted strong sales in its biggest market, the United States.

The world's best-selling carmaker now expects to book 1.94 trillion yen ($19.55 billion) in annual operating profit, up from its previous forecast of 1.8 trillion yen. That is lower than the 2.27 trillion yen estimated by 26 analysts.

Toyota posted an 87.9 percent rise in operating profit to 663.4 billion yen for its April-June first quarter, roughly in line with the average estimate of 649 billion yen in a Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S survey of four analysts.

Toyota, the third biggest carmaker in the United States, sold 1.3 million vehicles there in January-July, up 8 percent from a year ago. In the month of July, sales rose 17 percent, outselling Ford on a monthly basis for the first time in three years, as it posted strong sales of the Avalon and RAV4.

The United States is Toyota's biggest market, accounting for nearly a quarter of its global sales. Its January-July market share dropped by 0.1 percentage point to 14.3 percent.

In July, U.S. new-vehicle sales rose 14 percent and the annual sales rate in the month finished at 15.67 million vehicles, below the expected 15.8 million rate.

Toyota has faced slower-than-expected growth in Southeast Asai, its biggest regional market after North America and Japan, underperforming industry-wide growth as it is hurt by government policy swings in Thailand and Indonesia.

Toyota sold about 539,000 vehicles in ASEAN in January-June, the same level as last year, but that lagged 15 percent industry-wide growth.

Toyota's ASEAN exposure is higher than its rivals Honda Motor Co and Nissan Motor Co. ASEAN represents a little more than 10 percent of Toyota's total global sales.

Shares in Toyota have more than doubled since mid-November when expectations mounted that Shinzo Abe would take over as prime minister and implement bold economic policies, helping to weaken the yen. Toyota has outperformed the benchmark Nikkei average, which is up about two-thirds over that period.

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