Toyota pushes up profit forecast, details China hit

Mon Nov 5, 2012 8:28am EST
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By Yoko Kubota

TOKYO (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T: Quote) nudged its full-year net profit forecast up to $9.7 billion, even as it put the cost of recent anti-Japanese protests and a slowing economy in China, the world's biggest autos market, at lost sales of 200,000 cars.

Sales at Toyota and its two Chinese joint ventures almost halved in September and October amid often violent protests in a dispute over ownership of islets in the East China Sea. Honda Motor's (7267.T: Quote) China car sales more than halved last month, while Nissan Motor's (7201.T: Quote) fell 41 percent.

Toyota said on Monday the impact of the drop in sales would cost it 30 billion yen off its full-year net profit. It sold around 900,000 vehicles in China last year.

While Honda last week cut its full-year net profit forecast by a fifth to take account of the China damage, and Nissan is expected to follow suit when it releases its July-September results on Tuesday, Toyota has found room to revise its forecasts higher as it traditionally gives more conservative earnings guidance and relies less heavily on China sales.

China accounts for around 12 percent of Toyota's sales, compared to Nissan's 27 percent and Honda's 20 percent. The backlash in China against Japanese goods allowed Hyundai Motor (005380.KS: Quote) and BMW (BMWG.DE: Quote) to pick up market share.

Toyota increased its net profit forecast for the year to end-March to 780 billion yen, up 2.6 percent from its previous guidance. It said full-year operating profit would be 1.05 trillion yen, up a touch from its earlier forecast for 1 trillion yen.

July-September net profit more than trebled to 257.9 billion yen ($3.2 billion) on solid sales in North America and Southeast Asia, beating an average estimate of 228.8 billion yen from six analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. A year ago, Japanese manufacturers were still reeling from the March earthquake and tsunami.

"It's uncertain when sales will recover in China. It's unlikely to happen anytime soon ... I think the market hopes for a recovery in January-March, but I don't really see what's going to drive that," said Kei Nihonyanagi, autos analyst at Barclays Securities in Tokyo.   Continued...

Spanners are placed on a mat by mechanics for the photographer inside a Toyota service centre in Taipei in this March 3, 2010 file photo. REUTERS/Nicky Loh/Files