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Toyota forecast loss triples?

2009-02-06 11:42

Tokyo - Toyota Motor Corp forecast a far bigger full-year loss than it had flagged just six weeks ago as the world's biggest automaker struggles to cut production fast enough to match a sharp drop in global sales.

A sudden dive in demand since late last year has caught automakers around the world flat-footed, but the pain is especially pronounced at Toyota, which is saddled with too much capacity after years of building new plants to keep up with demand.

Toyota started the current financial year with a bullish forecast to make 8.87 million vehicles in the 12 months to end-March. By November, it had slashed that goal by nearly 1 million vehicles, and has since announced more cuts in North America and Japan, without specifying the scale.

For the year to end-March, Toyota now expects an operating loss of 450 billion yen ($4.95 billion), three times the loss it forecast in late December and a similar consensus forecast in a Reuters Estimates survey of 18 brokerages.

Toyota changed its annual net forecast to a 350 billion yen loss from a 50 billion yen profit.

Citing the likelihood of persistent pressure on Toyota's earnings through next year, Moody's Investors Service earlier cut its credit rating on Toyota for the first time in a decade, to Aa1 from Aaa.

For its October-December third quarter, Toyota reported an operating loss of 360.5 billion yen against a year-earlier profit of 601.6 billion yen.

It posted a third-quarter net loss of 164.6 billion yen against a year-earlier profit of 458.7 billion yen.

Nine-month sales fell 13.8 percent to 16.99 trillion yen.

More job cuts?

On its way to posting a first consolidated operating loss in its 70-year history, Toyota has announced a slew of measures to control spending, including putting off all projects to expand production capacity and cancelling directors' bonuses.

Having let most temporary workers go, Toyota could also cut regular jobs in Britain and North America, a source said, in a rare move for the automaker, which prides its job security.

Toyota is reducing work to a single shift on 17 assembly lines out of 75 globally at different times in January and February, and will close all domestic factories for a total of 14 days in January-March.

In North America, Toyota has set non-production days ranging from 1 to 13 days a month at six assembly plants between last month and early April.

In a sign that production levels could stay low for months, Toyota's sales in the United States, its biggest market, fell 34% in January and 23% in Japan. Both were better than the average falls in those markets.

Toyota on Friday forecast annual global vehicle sales of 7.32 million units, against an earlier forecast for 7.54 million, and sales a year earlier of more than 8.9 million.

Shares in Toyota are up around 5% so far in 2009 as investors favour stocks with competitive long-term prospects, beating Tokyo's blue-chip Topix index, which is down 8%.

Ahead of the results on Friday, the stock ended up 1.6% at 3,090 yen, while the Topix closed up 0.6%.

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