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Toyota posts record profit, maintains full-year forecast

2018-08-03 09:32

Image: AFP / Pascal Rossignol

Japanese car giant Toyota on Friday posted a record first-quarter net profit thanks to strong sales in North America and China but warned that threatened US sanctions on the auto sector could have a "very big" impact on earnings.

The firm added that ongoing trade frictions between the US and China, as well as Washington's tariffs on metal imports, would also eat into its bottom line.

The firm said profit rose 7.2% to ¥657.3-billion ($5.9 billion) in April-June, its highest-ever first-quarter result.

Operating profit jumped 18.9% to ¥682.7 billion yen, with sales up 4.5% at ¥7.4 trillion.

'Not yet factored in impact of auto tariffs'

However, Toyota said it expected net profit to fall 15% for the fiscal year to March 2019.

"On trade issues, we are expecting profits will decline by ¥10-billion because of (higher costs of) steel and aluminium in North America," Toyota senior managing director Masayoshi Shirayanagi, told reporters.

"We have not yet factored in the impact of auto tariffs. If they are imposed, we think the impact will be very big," he added.

Satoru Takada, an analyst at TIW, a Tokyo-based research and consulting firm, told AFP: "Compared to its domestic rivals, Toyota has been relatively competitive.

"The firm performed strongly in North America and its sales in China are steady."

But President Donald Trump's threat to impose stiff tariffs on vehicles imported into the world's number two car market remains a concern for Japanese automakers.

"US tariffs will be a major risk for the Japanese auto industry. If tariffs are imposed, it will deal a big blow to Japanese carmakers," said Takada.

Toyota's global sales grew as the auto giant scored growth in the key North American, European and Asian markets.

Sales and marketing main revenue boosters

Increased sales volume and marketing efforts helped boost the bottom line by ¥45-billion yen while cost cutting contributed ¥15-billion yen, the company said.

Foreign exchange rates -- a major factor for the industry -- had little effect on its earnings for the quarter, it added.

Last week rival Nissan said its net profit for the three months to June plunged more than 14 percent, under pressure from rising material costs and a higher yen.

It said sales were up in China in the three months to June, but fell in North America and Europe.

For the year to March 2018, Toyota reported a record net profit thanks to a weaker yen and US tax cuts.

"The business environment for the industry remains severe," Takada said.

"Japanese carmakers need to step up their investment in new technologies, such as self-driving systems, in order to compete with their global rivals, while growing costs of raw materials are pressuring their earnings," he added.

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