Nissan outlook defies optimism among Japan carmakers
By Yoko Kubota
TOKYO (Reuters) - Nissan Motor Co (7201.T: Quote) bucked the optimistic trend among Japanese carmakers reporting quarterly earnings, leaving its annual profit forecast unchanged as sluggish sales weighed on its bottom line while others got a boost from a weakening yen.
The cheaper yen is improving the competitiveness of cars made by Nissan, Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T: Quote), Honda Motor Co Ltd (7203.T: Quote) and other Japanese brands when exported to key markets such as the United States, and adding to pressure on their South Korean rivals.
Shares in South Korea's biggest carmaker Hyundai Motor Co (005380.KS: Quote) have fallen around 20 percent since the start of October; by contrast, Toyota shares are up more than 50 percent.
The revivifying effect of the falling yen is being felt throughout Japan's auto industry supply chain. Last week the world's second-biggest auto parts supplier Denso Corp (6902.T: Quote) - part-owned by Toyota - raised its annual profit forecast by 6.7 percent, saying the currency move would help it and its customers.
This week a South Korean finance ministry official warned of possible market intervention as the yen's slump against the won - by more than 22 percent last year and another 5.6 percent so far this year - was cutting into South Korea's export competitiveness.
Adding to the discomfort for the South Korean industry, in January Toyota's Camry model won the "Korea Car of the Year Award", industry press reported, bagging a prize usually handed to domestically made vehicles.
DRAMATIC IMPACT AT MAZDA
Among Japan's carmakers, currency moves are expected to have the most dramatic impact at Japan's fifth-ranked firm Mazda Motor Corp (7261.T: Quote), which raised its operating profit outlook for the year ending in March by 80 percent. Continued...